Friday, February 13, 2009

Tomato Plant Blossoms

The inflorescence of the tomato is usually abundant and it is rare that a plant does not produce sufficient blooms for a full crop. The flowers are perfect as far as parts are concerned and in bright, sunny weather there is an abundance of pollen, but sunlight and warmth are essential to its maturing into a condition in which it can easily reach the stigma. The structure and development of the flower are such that while occasionally, particularly in healthy plants out of doors, the stigma becomes receptive and takes the pollen as it is pushed out through the stamen tube by the elongating style, it is more often pushed beyond them before the pollen matures, so that the pollen has to reach the stigma through some other means. Usually this is accomplished by the wind, either directly or through the motion of the plants.

Under glass it is generally necessary to assist the fertilization either directly by application or by motion of the plant, this latter only being effective in the middle of a bright sunny day. In the open ground in cold, damp weather the flowers often fail of fertilization, in which case they drop, and this is often the first indication of a failing of the crop on large, strong vines. I have known of many cases where the yield of fruit from large and seemingly very healthy vines was very light because continual rains prevented the pollenization of the flowers. Such failures, however, do not always come from a want of pollen but may result from an over or irregular supply of water either at the root or in the air, imperfectly balanced food supply, a sapping of the vitality of the plants when young, or from other causes. Insects rarely visit tomato flowers and are seldom the means of their fertilization.

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