The claim: there are male and female watermelons
A viral image circulating on Facebook gives some tips for choosing the tastiest watermelon, but with a twist. It identifies two images of watermelons as male and female.
“There are male and female watermelons? I didn’t know that,” reads a message from April 14 shared over 17,000 times on Facebook in three days.
The same graphic has also been shared over 37,000 times as part of another Facebook post in 2020.
But this post botches botany. Watermelons, like many other plants, have both male and female flowers, according to The Encyclopedia Britannica. But only the female flowers give fruit, and the fruits have no assigned sex.
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USA TODAY has reached out to Facebook users who posted the claim for comment.
Male flowers produce pollen, female flowers produce fruit
Like a monecious family memberwatermelons produce both male and female flowers on the same plant.
“It takes both the pollen found in the male flower and the female flowers inside the ovary to make a watermelon,” said Susan Shovel, the deputy executive director of the US Botanic Garden. “Watermelon grows from female flowers.”
Cross pollination requires bees. For seeded watermelons, 500 to 1,000 grains of pollen need to be transported from the male flower to the female flower, or about eight trips for a bee depending on the Extension of the Clemson cooperative. (Seedless watermelons, on the other hand, require between 16 and 24 visits, depending on the Extension of the University of Delaware cooperative.)
Once the pollen is transported to the ovary, an egg is fertilized. Eggs act as precursors to seed development, and therefore essential for plant growth and food production. As reported in American Scientistthe ovules turn into seeds, while the ovary turns into the watermelon fruit.
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The difference between a male flower and a female flower is structure-based. Pell explained that the female flowers are yellow petals attached to the plant by a tiny watermelon, which is the ovary. The male flowers, on the other hand, are connected to the plant by a thin green stem.
Our opinion: False
The claim that watermelons are male and female is FALSE, according to our research. Experts say watermelons are not classified as male or female. The plant produces both male and female flowers, but only the female flowers produce fruit.
Our fact-checking sources:
- University of Minnesota Extension, June 18, 2020, The unique pollination systems of cucumbers, melons and squash
- University of Georgia Bee Program, Accessed April 25 Crop pollination requirements
- SFGATE, November 28, 2018, Watermelon Growth Stages
- University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, accessed April 25 Home Gardening Watermelon Series
- Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center, February 26, 2017, Watermelon Fact Sheet
- The Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed April 25 Do plants have sexes?
- University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, May 24, 2019, POLLINATION OF SEEDELESS WATERMELONS AND PLACEMENT OF HONEY BEES, BUZZERS AS POLLINATORS
- Food Science Reference Module, 2016, Melons, squash and squash
- Current Topics in Developmental Biology, 2019, Chapter Fourteen – Development and Evolution of Single Ovum of Flowering Plants
- Scientific American, July 19, 2012, Seminal science: How many seeds produce different fruits?
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