Papayas (Carica papaya) are single-trunked, temperate fruit trees that produce delicious, orange-fleshed fruits. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, papayas need both male and female flowers to produce their bounty. Trees may be male, female or carry both male and female flowers on a single tree. Since pollination is essential to fruit, identifying male and female flowers can help ensure your papayas are fruitful
Male Papaya Trees
Male papaya trees bear flowers that have pollen, but male blooms have no ovaries or other receptive, female flower parts. The panicles of stamen-bearing, male papaya flowers may stretch 5 or 6 feet long. The small, tubular yellow flowers contain 10 pollen-producing anthers. Male pollen is naturally transferred to female papaya blossoms by insects or wind.
Female papaya trees bear flowers as well, but their waxy, yellowish-white flowers have stigmas and large ovaries to receive pollen from male papaya trees. Many papaya growers fertilize female flowers by hand rather than leaving it up to nature. Pollen is gathered with a small paint brush from male flowers, and then brushed on the stigmas of females. Fruit matures about three months after pollination. Female papayas may produce multiple flowers and crops in a single year.
Some papaya trees produce male flowers alongside female flowers on the same tree, or produce perfect flowers that contain both male and female parts in one blossom. These trees can self-pollinate, either by male flowers pollinating the females, one perfect flower pollinating another perfect flower, or by a perfect flower pollinating itself. Under certain conditions, male papaya trees may begin to produce female flowers.
Seeds and Gender
Many papayas are grown from seed, making seed gender important to future harvests. When female trees are pollinated by male trees, the seeds produced in the fruit will be 50 percent male and 50 percent female. If pollinated by a tree with both male and female flowers, female flowers produce seeds that lead to 50 percent female and 50 percent male-female trees. When a male-female tree is pollinated, seeds reflect an even gender distribution between male, female and male-female trees. When two male-female papaya trees cross pollinate, they produce primarily male-female seeds.
Samantha Belyeu has been writing professionally since 2003. She began as a writer and publisher for the Natural Toxins Research Center and has spent her time since as a landscape designer and part-time writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas A&M University in Kingsville.