Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rhubarb Flower

Rhubarb FlowerDid you know that rhubarb has flowers? I didn't. It makes sense - most plants have flowers of some kind. Generally, gardeners like flowers on plants where you eat the fruit or the seeds. But they don't like them on plants where you eat the leaves, stem or root. Once a plant has made flowers and set seeds, it stops putting energy into the other parts of the plant. Last year some of my onions did it, and when I cut up the onion bulbs they were all hollow in the middle. So gardeners are alert to plants "bolting" (it means making flowers, often on the end of a tall stalk), and the chop the flowerheads off when they see them.

I've never seen rhubarb flowers before, but this year rhubarb is bolting all over the allotments. It could be that the weather conditions are right for flowering rhubarb. But I've long had a sneaking suspicion that bolting plants send some sort of chemical signal to their fellows. When you let one go, they all start. Of course, that would also happen if they were all responding to the same weather conditions. What do you think? Is my "chemical signal" theory just rubbish, or is there something to it?

Anyway, the wonderfully phallic rhubarb flowers had to get the chop. I winced when I did it, but they had to go, or they would have sapped the plant and I wouldn't get any lovely pink rhubarb to eat and make chutney out of.

13 comments:

TheBuddingVeggieGrower said...

Hi Melanie,

I've tagged you on my blog - fancy coming up with six random things about you?

Hope you are enjoying the lovely weather!

femsc said...

I discovered rhubarb flowers a few years ago because there was rhubarb in the garden when we moved in here. Not being avid gardeners or cooks we didn't do anything to the rhubarb except watch it (and it gave the rabbits somewhere to hide under its leaves) so finally it gave up being an eating plant and produced flowers. They were huge pink/cream things, and I decided there and then that I'd allow them to stay and adorn the patch on which they grew.

Since then we've had flowers on our rhubarb each year, but what I hadn't realised was that rabbits enjoy nibbling at rhubarb leaves. Oddly, it's not such a big healthy plant now - but the rabbit's grown and is doing very well :)

Fran

Z said...

My rhubarb has bolted too, before I'd even picked any. I don't know if it'll come again if I cut the flowers off.

Melanie Rimmer said...

Cut the flower off, z. You'll get stems as long as you cut the flower off, but you mightn't if you leave it there.

Allie said...

Wow! That's really interesting!

I think your theory sounds about right.

emma said...

thank goodness its not just my rhubarb thats flowered. i didnt have a clue what it was! but then i found out i had to snap it off. and that was quite fun. lets hope it works!

TicklyToes said...

Last year my Rhubarb flowered (and no, prior to that I had no idea it could flower, and my father in law - who gave us the rhubarb from one of his crowns, had no idea either) - we left it because it was the first year of rhubarb in our garden, so we were being restrained & not cutting any anyway. Am off to cut rhubarb this very minute, to make sure we get some before ours flowers!

Allotment Lady said...

Each my some of my rhubarb plants throw up flowers - I featured them again a week ago on my blog. I let some flower so that the plant gets a rest, and pick the stalks from the others - alternatively depending on the crop and weather, let the rhubarb flower later in the season.

Amazingly I have one at home in my garden in a raised bed next to an water butt which over flows - and this never flowers.

So my theory is that is that lack of water is a contributory factor at a critical of its growing cycle.

There was not lack of rain here over the winter or earlier on this year up my plot - but it is windy up there and the field is an 'open aspect' and I do heap barrow loads of horse manure of the rhubarb bed too - so maybe too much food?

Love reading your blog - don't get much time to leave comments as often as I would like.

Anonymous said...

My rhubarb plants flower every year (I'm in Michigan) and every year I chop them off and compost them. I read somewhere on the internet you could eat them like broccoli but I am weary since the leaves are not edible.

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