I’m talking in context of my Red Lady papaya trees, so please don’t get too excited…
We all know what a gamble it is when growing plants like papaya trees, because the flowers need to be pollinated to grow fruits – yet the trees may be male, female or hermaphrodite. So, you have to grow more than one plant to increase your chances of getting fruit. If you’re lucky, your neighbour will have a tree that can help out in this area. But you have to make sure there’s at least one male tree around to fertilize the others. Or, you can hope for a hermaphroditic tree, which is self-pollinating.
When I first heard about hermaphroditic trees, I thought the flowers were supposed to have a combination of male and female parts. So, when my most mature papaya tree finally flowered last week, I was disappointed that the flower was obviously female.
For 3 days, I watched as the 5 somewhat curly white petals opened more and more fully, revealing a nice, fat ovary inside. If pollinated, that ovary would have grown into a papaya fruit. Mind you, it looked like a miniature, yellow coconut – very full of potential, but unfortunately, with little chance of a fruitful future (unless insects brought in pollen from someone else’s garden without my knowing – I can dream a little, can’t I? :)).
While mooning over the lost opportunity, I looked at the other developing buds and wondered why some were growing singly while others appeared to be developing in a little cluster. It took a little while, but my brain finally made the connections between the single/cluster of flowers – single flowers are female while the clusters are male flowers! Which means that hermaphroditic trees don’t just produce “all-in-one” flowers – they can produce both genders of flowers on the same plant!
Talk about a lightbulb moment!
So, thankfully, I don’t have to wait for my other laggards to mature since this tree seems poised to take care of itself. Thank goodness!
The Red Lady papaya saga will continue…