Male or Female? Identifying Luffa and Cucurbit Flowers


“Our luffa plants are blooming nicely; the bloom falls off and there does not appear to be the luffa growing from the bloom.  When does the actual luffa appear on the plant?  Thanks in advance of youur reply. ~ L.”

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The reason why you may not be seeing any luffa gourds yet is because the flowers you do see are males.  When a gourd or other type of cucurbit (like cucumbers, squashes, and melons) begin to blossom, the first flowers will be male flowers.  (Well, unless it is an all-female or parthenocarpic plant, but we won’t worry about that because luffas aren’t.)

The males are relatively easy to identify because the blossom is connected to the vine by a long, rather thin stem.  These flowers will bloom for one day and then fall off.  They are generally grouped near the base of the plant (where it comes out of the ground).

The female plants are noticeable because they have a small green luffa between the blossom and the vine.  These usually begin to appear 1-2 weeks after the first males begin to bloom and are located on the vines.  As the vine grows, it continues to set new female blossoms. Their appearance is weather dependent: the process is sped up when temperatures are over 90 with humidity.  If it is rather cool (75 or below during the day for an extended period) or dry, the process could even be slowed down a bit more.  The flowers appear to bloom for up to two days, but are actually viable for pollen on the first day only.  If unpollinated, they will fall off in 3-5 days after blooming.

I don’t have a photo of luffa flowers on file, but I do have a male and a female butternut squash photo attached.  This should help in at least beginning to identify the difference.

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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