Corn gone viral? You’re looking at an ear of a corn variety called “Glass Gem”, grown by Greg Schoen of Seeds Trust. This is real corn! How does it grow this way?
First you have to understand a few things about corn. Each corn kernel is actually a sort of unique plant. A corn plant’s male parts (the “tassels”) sit at the top of the stalk, and drop pollen downward. Unfertilized ears (the female parts) catch the pollen with the sticky ends of their corn silks. Each corn silk (I hate when that gets in my teeth) grabs a pollen grain, shuttles it allllllll the way down inside the ear, eventually creating one kernel for each pollen-silk-ovum combination. It’s one of the more interesting and inefficient breeding schemes I know of.
If you’ve taken genetics, you know that the parents’ genes will combine by chance, leading to certain ratios of inheritance in the offspring. This is the basis of Mendelian genetics (great Khan Academy video here).
With corn, we’ve simply carefully bred all the interestingness out of them. Native Americans were used to multi-colored corn, because corn plants held many varieties of color genes that could combine at random. Now all we are left with are one-color clones.
This “Glass Gem” corn is the other extreme of the spectrum, a combination of corn color hybrid genes and random pollination. It’s almost too pretty to eat!
(via Discover Magazine)