Squash blossoms are a visual treat in the garden – they are bright, beautiful, and come in both male and female versions. The female flowers are the ones that produce the summer squash. The male flowers are on long stems, and while the produce no squash, their flowers can be stuffed and fried for a delicious meal.
Typically, nature does it’s thing with bees and insects doing their job in pollination. In some areas, though, the squash vine borer (SVB) becomes difficult to control other than actually covering the plants for protection. Then, hand pollination becomes necessary.
How to Hand Pollinate Squash Blossoms
These steps are from the Aggie Hortuculture site, from the horticultural sciences department of Texas A&M. They have an excellent way to distinguish the male and female flowers apart:
Male flowers grow on a long narrow stem. You can also tell the two apart by looking at the reproductive organs found in the center of the flower. The female flowers contain the stigma. The stigma generally looks like a flower in its own right. It has several “bumpy structures” that cluster around a central opening. Anthers (male parts) look a lot like… [an eye shadow applicator].
- Identify which are the male blossoms and which are the female blossoms.
- Find a male flower and remove it where the flower stem meets the main stem of the plant.
- Remove all the petals gently, revealing the stem and anther, typically 4 to 6 inches long.
- Use this male part (anther) to paint the center stigma of a female flower. Continue doing this; a male anther will last long enough to pollinate 4 to 5 flowers.