Zucchini Flowers, Leaves, and Bees

3 Jul


Yes, it’s that time of year, a time when you realize you planted way too much zucchini. I have only one zucchini plant in the garden (not having much space for vegetables to begin with) — yet I find myself asking, how can one plant produce that much? And it’s barely gotten started.

Luckily, I love zucchini and am already thinking about what to do with my harvest. However, this post is not about cooking. It is about the plant itself, from flower to leaf. If you grow zucchini, you probably quite enjoy seeing the zucchini flowers/blossoms/blooms. I usually look at them and imagine them stuffed with a nice cheese, dipped in a light batter, and gently fried….heavenly! Some say the male flowers (which grow at the end of long stems, unlike female flowers, which grow at the end of the emerging zucchini) are the best for eating; I’ll happily sample either one. The flowers can also be eaten raw, sliced into salads or other dishes.

But I digress. My intention was to write about the plant–as a plant, not as a source of food. A couple of days ago, I was checking the status of the zucchini and was startled to see a fully open flower. I almost never see an open flower, which makes sense since they are only open for one day and usually from morning to early afternoon (when I am at work, or not paying sufficient attention). In order for any zucchini to be produced, bees must take advantage of this small window of opportunity and do their part by carrying pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. [Ok, I have to digress again to show a completely unrelated photo of a friend’s beehive since I don’t have a photo of a bee on my zucchini flowers–and yes, honey bees are excellent pollinators of zucchini and many other fruits and vegetables. Go bees!]


Some of my baby zucchini seemed to wither on the stems and drop off before they even got going. I wondered if this was due to all the rain we’ve been having (or even worse, if it could possibly be the fault of our male dog–despite the barricades I erected). Luckily, I discovered it’s because the female flower didn’t get quite enough pollen from the male. Gardeners wishing to help the process along can try to hand pollinate by carefully removing the anther from the male flower and dabbing it onto the stigma of the open female flower (or by using cotton swabs to transfer the pollen). In my case, with plenty of zucchini already harvested and more to come, I may need to start tying all those flowers closed!

Here is a photo of a lovely, open zucchini flower (looks male)…

… and of another part of the plant that rarely gets mentioned: the leaf. I really like the way the leaves look, and I particularly like the downward angle in this photo. But zucchini leaves are a force of nature. They are so big and so prolific that they keep taking over the small space I allocated to the zucchini plant, and I have had to prune them several times. I felt guilty cutting them off at first, but then I learned that judicious pruning lets more light in and can help increase zucchini production. Wait–is that a plus?

4 Responses to “Zucchini Flowers, Leaves, and Bees”

  1. gavmomof2 July 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Beautiful! I have never seen an open Zucchini flower. Many italian restaurants offer these gorgeous blooms as an appetizer – fried zucchini flowers. I have never tried them but to many, they are delicious. I always thought “one less zucchini” but now, I see that is not the case. So happy to learn something new today THANKS! ~maria

    • perennialpastimes July 3, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

      Thanks! Though I’ve seen a never-ending stream of the closed flowers, I had never seen an open flower until this past weekend (could it be that I just never noticed, under all those leaves?), and I immediately went back in and got my camera. But now you have me thinking about fried zucchini blossoms; I may have to conduct a culinary experiment this weekend if the rain stops drenching all the flowers!

  2. lavendermoongirlblog July 23, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks for the helpful information about growing zucchini, I didn’t think to thin out the leaves. I love your photo of the flower, they are such a beautiful shade of yellow. My dogs aren’t interested in my tomatoes or zucchini, they often eat my strawberries!

    • perennialpastimes July 23, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      When I got back from my trip last week, the zucchini leaves were hip height and were covering everything in their path, so out came the secateurs again. I only have one very prolific zucchini plant, but I made the mistake of planting it in a relatively small area, so have to make sure the neighboring plants don’t get suffocated. The side effect of trimming is (fortunately or unfortunately) more zucchini….

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