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Tomato Plant Pollination

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Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Tomatoes need movement for pollination. Their pollen containing anthers have slits or pores in them which release ripe pollen when stimulated by wind or vibrations. As wind moves the flowers pollen is released and falls on the female stigma. The best insect pollinators are not honey bees but bumble bees and carpenter bees. These insects which have super strong chest muscles frequently visit flowers in the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes. Using a technique called buzz pollination, they hold onto the flower with their jaws and with their wings in a resting position powerfully vibrate their flight muscles, up to one hundred ninety times a second. The pollen rains down on the stigma and the bees. The female flowers get pollinated the bees take collected pollen back to their colony for food, and we get big juicy tomatoes.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.