Cauliflower Question

Ross Koning koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Thu Jul 8 23:56:35 EST 1999

At 12:07 AM -0400 7/9/99, David Hershey wrote:
>There does seem to be some controversy about whether cauliflower is
>really  floral tissue. The Plant Science text by Hartmann et al. says it
>is "prefloral fleshy apical meristem tissue."
>A college Horticulture text says the edible part is "malformed or
>hypertrophied flowers" and "Hortus Third" calls it the "condensed and
>thickened malformed flower cluster."
>David Hershey
>dh321 at

Hi David!

I'm always ready to learn by doing.  I suggest a
teacher buy a fresh head of broccoli or cauliflower
at the grocery or farmer's market.  Choose a head
that has a "coarser" appearance to the buds (these
will be closer to flowering time and have a better
chance for success!).  At school, slice off the bottom
2 cm of the stem so you have a fresh cut and place
the cut end in a shallow pan of fresh water. Leave
the head in bright light for several days.  You
should observe what gardeners have observed whenever
they fail to harvest a head soon
begin to open. Those biggest buds produce a yellow
flower of typical Brassicaceae form.  I will suggest
that this project will produce flowers more reliably
with broccoli (vis a vis cauliflower) as there is
enough photosynthesis to continue to support the
development of flowers in the absence of the leafy

I will guess that the "prefloral" and "malformed"
descriptors are almost on-target.  If you cook your
coles when they are quite fine-grained, the buds
are VERY young. But I have left broccoli out too
long many times and find many flowers opening in my
garden. I don't grow cauliflower as I am too lazy
to tie it up to blanche the heads...and broccoli
tastes great with much less work.  The Brassica oleracea
subspecies (italica and caulorapa in this case) have
been selected out from what was a reasonable brassica.
If students grow Wisconsin fast plants, they will see
a more "wild-type" Brassica. The subspecies capitata
has a monstrous vegetative apical bud. Gemmifera has
monstrous lateral buds. Italica and caulorapa have
monstrous inflorescences. Horticulturists and gardeners
are always looking for such "abnormalities".  I could
go into my rogues gallery of flowers ("doubles" and "triples"
etc.) created by artificial selection...but my diatribe
on pom-poms as an archetype would probably offend
some people...



Ross Koning                 | koning at
Biology Department          |
Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479

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