I found this male inflorescence of Maize (also known as tassel) in a maize field near Kalache Kambala, Mulki. Setting sun was casting just the right amount of light on this single Maize tassel. with rest of the Maize in darkness it gave a natural darker background. I was really with a rig meant for birding, Canon EOS 5DS R fitted with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and Canon EF 1.4x III Extender hand held. The 700mm focal length was difficult to handhold especially at 1/100th of second. To get the right framing I zoomed with my feet to get this full frame capture.
Maize, also known as corn, is a large grain plant first domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mexico about 10,000 years ago. The six major types of corn are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn.
The Olmec and Mayans cultivated maize in numerous varieties throughout Mesoamerica. Maize was dispersed into lower Central America by 7600 BP [5600 BC] and had moved into the inter-Andean valleys of Colombia between 7000 and 6000 BP [5000-4000 BC]. All maize arose from a single domestication in southern Mexico about 9,000 years ago.
Maize is the domesticated variant of Teosinte. The two plants have dissimilar appearance, maize having a single tall stalk with multiple leaves and teosinte being a short, bushy plant. The difference between the two is largely controlled by differences in just two genes. Before they were domesticated, maize plants only grew small, 25 millimetres (1 in) long corn cobs, and only one per plant. Many centuries of artificial selection by the indigenous people of the Americas resulted in the development of maize plants capable of growing several cobs per plant that were usually several centimetres/inches long each.
After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries. Maize spread to the rest of the world because of its ability to grow in diverse climates. Sugar-rich varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for human consumption as kernels, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed, various corn-based human food uses (including grinding into cornmeal or masa, pressing into corn oil, and fermentation and distillation into alcoholic beverages like bourbon whiskey), and as chemical feedstocks.
Ears develop above a few of the leaves in the midsection of the plant, between the stem and leaf sheath, elongating by ~3 mm/day, to a length of 18 cm to 60 cm They are female inflorescences, tightly enveloped by several layers of ear leaves commonly called husks. Certain varieties of maize have been bred to produce many additional developed ears. These are the source of the “baby corn” used as a vegetable in Asian cuisine.
The apex of the stem ends in the tassel, an inflorescence of male flowers. When the tassel is mature and conditions are suitably warm and dry, anthers on the tassel dehisce and release pollen. Maize pollen is anemophilous (dispersed by wind), and because of its large settling velocity, most pollen falls within a few meters of the tassel.
Elongated stigmas, called silks, emerge from the whorl of husk leaves at the end of the ear. They are often pale yellow and 18 cm in length, like tufts of hair in appearance. At the end of each is a carpel, which may develop into a “kernel” if fertilized by a pollen grain. The pericarp of the fruit is fused with the seed coat referred to as “caryopsis”, typical of the grasses, and the entire kernel is often referred to as the “seed”.
The cob is close to a multiple fruit in structure, except that the individual fruits (the kernels) never fuse into a single mass. The grains are about the size of peas, and adhere in regular rows around a white, pithy substance, which forms the ear. An ear commonly holds 600 kernels. They are of various colors: blackish, bluish-gray, purple, green, red, white and yellow. When ground into flour, maize yields more flour with much less bran than wheat does. It lacks the protein gluten of wheat and, therefore, makes baked goods with poor rising capability. A genetic variant that accumulates more sugar and less starch in the ear is consumed as a vegetable and is called sweet corn. Young ears can be consumed raw, with the cob and silk, but as the plant matures (usually during the summer months), the cob becomes tougher and the silk dries to inedibility.