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Corn Tasseling Early?

Every once in a while, instead of instilling calm and comfort, the garden promotes panic.  Such is the case when I discovered that my heirloom Black Aztec sweet corn was starting to send out tassels.

The problem is not that it is tasseling, but rather that it is tasseling now – while the stalks are only 2 feet tall.  What’s going on here?

Black Aztec sweet corn gets a jump on the season

I did a quick search online to see if I could find an answer.  On several forums (should be fora, if we’re using proper Latin) I found many gardeners with similar concerns.  The answers posted seemed to indicate that it was normal, or at least common.  But why did this happen?

Weather – it appears that corn tends to tassel early if the plants are hit with a cold snap early on in development.  As it so happens, we had a freak hail storm about a week after I planted out the corn.  The plants were damaged – leaves shredded – but the invisible damage apparently came from temperature.

Tassels rising out of short corn stalks

The good news is that most of the answers on the forums indicated that the plants catch up and the results are relatively the same.

Opening tassels on an even shorter corn stalk

Let’s hope that’s true.  We’ll report back our findings as the season progresses.  If this is happening to you (or ever has) post your concerns, research here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. jordan smith

    Hi – the tassels on our corn is turning black – why????? Thanks

    1. Christy

      It sounds like black mold or sooty mold. Check your plants for aphids. Black sooty mold is a fungus that grows on aphid honeydew (the sap they excrete when they’re eating your plants). If it’s happening well after the corn is ripe, I would just pull the plants and either put it in a hot compost pile (one that reaches 160 degrees) or put it in your city green bin since their compost gets hot enough to kill diseases and such.

      If it makes you feel better, my corn stalks are full of it right now (though I have no aphids, we have very cool, humid, overcast temperatures on the coast this summer — the perfect breeding ground for fungi like powdery mildew and blight). We harvested and ate our corn long before the stalked became infected though. We’ve just left the stalks up to trellis some Malabar spinach.

      Here is a reference about sooty/black mold:

  2. Corn tassel

    Hey, I was just reading about your corn tasseling early last year. We were hit with a freeze shortly after planting this season (2013) and I’m curious to find out how your corn crop did last season? Let me know! Thanks!!!

    1. Christy

      Last season the crop did poorly, mostly because I missed the window of opportunity to pick it before it went to starch. We also had some trouble with rats eating the tassels, so pollination was low. This year, however, we now have a cat, so no rats (so far) and we harvested and ate all our corn because I marked my calendar for 18 days from when the silks came out. We didn’t miss the window and the corn was delicious.

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