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  3. The flower
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  The flower
 

Cherimoya flowers differ from most fruit species in their pollination method and attractiveness to potential pollinators. The flower is green and not easily seen unless you look carefully. They develop singularly or in groups of two to three on short, hairy stalks along the branches, continuing as new growth proceeds, and sometimes on old wood.

The fragrant flower consists of three long succulent petals surrounding the centre of the flower, which contains a cone shaped syncarpium of stigmas, the female structures that receive pollen and ultimately develop into fruit. The stigma is surrounded by several rings of larger grains called stamens, the male structures, which develop into pollen. Cherimoya flowers are hermaphroditic (the same flower has both female and male stages), but also shows protogynous dichogamy (the stigmas are receptive before pollen is shed by the anthers).

Flowers last approximately two days and open in two stages: first as female-stage flowers (lasting roughly 36 hours) and then as male-stage flowers. During the female stage the flower has a declining receptivity to pollen, and is unlikely to be pollinated by its own pollen in the male stage.

This chart is based on female-stage flowers with petals just beginning to separate:


Flower age (hrs)   Stage   Description

0–15   early female   petals start to separate

15–36   female   petals separated, stigmas sticky and receptive. Receptivity begins to decline near the end of this period

36–40   late female   no longer receptive

40 onwards   male   pollen matures then begins turning brown and sheds from the stamens (unless gathered for pollinating)


flower closed     flower partly opened
Cherimoya flowers in various stages of development

In New Zealand, cherimoya flowers open and the stigmas are receptive early in the morning, but pollen is not shed from the male stage anthers until the evening of the second day. At this stage the stigmas are no longer receptive, which prevents pollination within a single flower, so pollination by hand is needed to set a good crop.

When the fully developed flower begins to separate its petals at the tips it’s in the female-stage and can receive pollen. As soon as the petals separate, or just after, the tissue temperature in the fleshy flower will rise several degrees, creating an attractive sweet scent that continues until the pollen is released later in the day. Overseas, scent is an important factor in attracting insects to naturally pollinate cherimoya, but unfortunately not in New Zealand since there appears to be no pollen-transferring insects interested in the job.

The Ylang-ylang (Canaga ododrata), a botanical relative of cherimoya, produces a strong attractive scented oil, which is distilled from the flowers. The oil and other organic ingredients are distilled, purified and then blended to produce some of the finest perfumes, such as “Chanel #5”.

Apparently if a few mature flowers are put in a bottle for a short time and the intense scent inhaled deeply it can invoke nausea.
 
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Growing conditions Tree management  
Hand pollinating Propagation
Harvest to selling Ripening and eating
Varieties


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Last modified 21/11/02