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How to Tell Female Flowers from Male Flowers on Pumpkin Plants

By Keith Heyden
Pumpkins have male and female flowers.
summer landscape with pumpkin image by Alexey Arkhipov from Fotolia.com

At first glance, it may appear that all of the flowers on your pumpkin plant are the same. A closer inspection reveals distinct differences between the female flowers and the male flowers. Pumpkin plants — and other “cucurbits,” such as melons, cucumbers and squash — have both female and male flowers. Being able to detect the differences will be especially important if you plan to pollinate the flowers by hand.

Male flowers have long, thin stalks.
Pumpkin Plant Flower Closeup image by John Walsh from Fotolia.com

Look for the flowers with the long and thin stalks. These are the males. They’ll typically appear before the female flowers, and they’ll also be more abundant.

Male flowers have fused stamens that appear to be a single stamen in the center.
cucurbitacée 2 image by Nathalie P from Fotolia.com

Look for the stamens. Another distinguishing feature of the male flower is the presence of what appears to be a single stamen — the rod-shaped, pollen-producing part of the flower that protrudes from the center. On a male pumpkin flower, however, what appears to be only one stamen is actually more than one stamen fused together.

Female flowers have an ovary underneath.
an arising pumpkin image by Rina from Fotolia.com

Look for the flowers with the short and thick stalks. These are the females. Underneath the female flower, you’ll also notice a green, berry-sized ovary — the part that swells into a pumpkin after fertilization takes place. Fertilization is also followed by the shriveling up of the female flower.

Female flowers also have multi-segmented stigma in the center.
Kürbisblüte 5 image by awfoto from Fotolia.com

Look for the stigma. Female flowers can be identified by the multi-segmented stigma in the center. The stigma is the pollen-receiving part of the flower.


About the Author


Keith Heyden, a resident of Arizona, started freelance writing in 2010. His writing appears on various health care websites, and he worked for several years in the book publishing industry. Heyden obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Arizona.