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Tomato Blossom Anatomy

Female Anatomy- Stigma and Ovary

Part 2 of 2

In the last article, we talked about the male blossom parts and how pollen is vibrated loose inside the anther cone. This time we will continue with the completion of fertilization and talk about the female blossom parts. In figure 2 you see a partial anther cone opened from the side so that you can see inside. Remember the anther cone is a male part, the pollen develops along the inside of this cone, where vibration jars it lose and the pollen falls downward.

Moving on to figure 3, we show the male parts completely removed so that you can plainly see just the female parts remaining. The very tip of the female parts (A) is called the stigma. At ideal maturity, the stigma will be somewhat sticky to allow the fallen pollen grains to stick to it during the vibration. Once the pollen has adhered to the stigma it is carried up the style (B) where it will then fertilize the ovary (C). If the ovary becomes fully fertilized, the ovary swells and begins the growth of new fruit.

So why is it that not all blossoms pollinate and some dry up and drop? There are many factors really. If it has been rainy or is too humid, the pollen will get stuck farther up inside the anther cone and not be able to reach the stigma in time for pollination to occur. If it is too hot, the pollen dies and becomes unviable, the blossom then dries up and falls off the plant. If the air is too dry, the stigma might not be quite sticky enough to catch the pollen. There are so many factors of nature that go into this process. One way to help ensure you have good pollination is to buzz the backside of each pedicel with an electric toothbrush before the temperature has climbed into the full heat of the day. Somewhere between 60-80 degrees, Fahrenheit is ideal, for me this means between 7 and 10 am. Remember, a mature blossom will be bright yellow and wide open.
Now that we have brought you up to speed on the anatomy and function of tomato blossoms, please join us for our next series where we begin to dive into the actual process of basic breeding skills. We hope you are as excited as we are.

Reader Comments

  • Avatar Subscriber

    sometimes the first blossom on some varieties, heirloom and F1, is shaped more like a daisy blossom, not with the pointed central cone. Can these blossoms produce fruit?

    • Andrea Clapp
      Andrea Clapp Editor Breeder
      Chief Operating Officer and Director of Research and Innovation

      Hello and thank you for your question. I honestly have to say I have never seen a tomato blossom without an anther cone. (What you are describing may be a fasciated blossom, which still has an anther cone, but is very wide and composed of several blossoms stuck together.) In any case, as long as there is still a stigma and ovary, it is possible that it could be pollinated with pollen from a nearby blossom or insect. Do you by chance have a photo of the type of blossom you are describing? Feel free to send any photos you may have to

      Thank you and happy growing!

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  • Chief Operating Officer, Director of Research and Innovation
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