This squash vine (jap pumpkin?) grew all on its own in what I’ve been calling the strawberry bed. It is a voracious grower and seems to have no pests or mould (unlike whatever I plant with TLC). I thought it was an alien species and that it might just take over the house. Visions of Jack’s beanstalk ran through my head.
Then, flowers started appearing (which did nothing to calm my concerns about runaway plants and evil giants). Just flowers, no fruit. But wait, a couple of the flowers showed up perched atop baby fruit. So now I’m learning about the life cycle of squash. I can only deduce that this variety (all varieties?) have male and female flowers.
The males (above) are pointless (unless you count fertilising the female as being a point). They open, wither and die *sigh*. They generally do this in solitary sadness. But today this amazing female flower (left) was in bloom just aching for a male to pollinate her.
Nature is a wonderful thing and, in no small part thanks to Frank’s well populated bee house, we have a plethora of bees in our garden. But still, I didn’t want to trust nature to actually unite this male with his aching mate so I grabbed a paint brush, diddled his stamen and then brushed the yellow load up against her private bits. I did this about 3 times for good measure. You can’t be too sure when it comes to the fertility gods.
And on the off-chance pollen survives away from its birth place, I loaded the paint brush and put it back in the workshop ready to assist the next female flower that is still closed but no doubt will bloom in the next couple of days. Not just because I’m not sure that bees won’t make the commute but I’m also worried that maybe a male flower won’t be open that day. These flowers have a very short life and it seems eminently likely to me that there will be females opened when all the males are dozing.
Update 20 April 2011: The first 2 fruits from this vine both rotted on the vine. Not sure what happened but I think maybe a worm got in. The vine continued to grow like a maniac producing quite a few female flowers with small fruits. It was a victim of its own success I suppose because Frank and I decided it had to go as it was attaching itself to and shading a lot of other plants. I never was able to eat anything from this vine, but maybe it will produce children in my compost bin. I have another wild vine growing in the sunflower bed. This one has a long run before it would interfere with any other plants so it might have a better chance at feeding me.