|Tassel-ear that another garden produced.|
Why the extreme difference? We wondered if we had messed-up by planting some other seeds instead. But we could find no evidence of that. We also wondered if we had some mutant corn. Again, no evidence. We also wondered if we had planted to late in the season. Probably not since the varieties of corn we planted normally are planted that time of year. So what was mutating this corn into a gigantic tassel-ear plant?
With a little more investigation we found that the soil where our gigantic mutant corn grew had extremely high clay content and was very commonly saturated with water. Water was often found pooling in this area. Areas where the corn grew as would normally be expected also had slightly lower clay content but were not saturated with water and did not have pooling issues. But we had no good explanation for why poorly aerated, high clay content, water saturated soils would produce gigantic mutant tassel-ear corn. So we took to the internet, where answers to all good gardening questions are found of course...
What we found was the condition of tassel-ear corn. This is where corn cobs also form tassels, just as our corn did. Our corn appears to be an extreme example of this condition though with the corn cob actually becoming very elongated and forming mostly tassel. Apparently this condition is common where corn plants are growing under poor soil conditions, just like ours. No one knows what triggers tassel-ears but from what I read, all corn cobs start off as both male and female, or both tassel and corn cob. Hormonal changes in the cob during development normally cause the cob to become fully female and produce seed and not a tassel. For some reason, tassel-ear corn does not have a hormonal change and the result is a corn cob that is both male and female. This condition does not however explain why our corn grew twice as tall and for twice as long as it should have. I could find no explanation for these weird problems though. For now, I'm simply blaming poor soil conditions on everything.