corn cob from sucker

My very small patch of corn grew lots of large suckers with cobs mixed in with tassels which I thought was odd since corn is monecious.

Anyway, I wonder if there's any reason I should not use these ears to grab seeds from for next year, or will I be encouraging a strain that produces suckers.

Edit: while I expect that answers will say that I should select the largest cob to save the seeds from, I expect the kernels from the sucker cobs to have almost the same genetic material packaged into smaller seeds. Each kernel will be different depending on which other plant fertilised it. And seed size only provides an advantage with higher carbohydrate reserves when growing initially. But I will be growing into grow bags, and not broadcasting.

3 Answers 3


What you have there is referred to as a tassel-ear. You are correct that corn is a monecious flower, but the way it develops is a little different. When the flower (both tassel and ear) first form they are perfect flowers (both male and female). During normal development different hormones are sent to the tassel and the ear, causing the tassel-flower to become male and the ear-flower female. However, when the corn plant is tillered things can get messy, a few misdirected hormones and suddenly the plant is trying to grow an ear where there should be a tassel. The exact cause isn't fully clear, even to Agriculture Universities like Purdue, but it mainly happens on tillers, rarely on the main-stem tassel.

As for saving the seeds, the genetic information should be the same, but there is a potential for problems with the physical seed. The tassel ear lacks a husk, which creates a very high potential for bird damage, weathering and disease, all of which can take a serious toll on your seed's fitness.

  • I'll probably use these kernels to see if I can grow some corn as a compost crop Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 9:48

For the sake of 1 or 2 decent cobs this year I would take your seed from the strongest/best looking plant with the best cob. You appear to have a decent little crop just in that photo so it shouldn't be too hard to sacrifice a few. Consider it an investment :-)


The fact the plants are monoecious does not preclude formation of tillers, most corn plants do produce suckers or tillers, and if you're lucky, they will go on to produce a few extra ears of corn, though often, they don't. Planting them closer together often prevents tiller formation.

I would though, as already suggested, save seed from the best, healthiest looking cob or two rather than a smaller, weedier looking one, simply to ensure you've got the best possible seed you can have.

More info here


  • The oddity I am referring to is that the sucker has both the male and female parts together. My picture shows an ear forming amongst the tassels. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:25
  • What's odd is there's apparently no silk on the cob - you might be interested to read this passel.unl.edu/pages/…
    – Bamboo
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:31
  • I guess it's a perfect flower then. The silk is not necessary since it's growing inside the tassel. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:41
  • Nope - the silk is essential, the part that receives the pollen is at the top of the silk... maybe it had silk but its shredded off over time.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:49
  • Closer look shows silks present. So it's a perfect flower. I'm growing a Peruvian variety crossed with an heirloom variety so it may just be exhibiting recessive genes Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 18:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.