Sprouted Squash Seeds and Stinky Ginkgo Fruit

Sprouted seeds inside a spaghetti squash that has been cut in halve.  Photo credit: Bryan Overstreet, Jasper Co, IN
Sprouted seeds inside spaghetti squash
Photo credit: Bryan Overstreet, Jasper Co, IN

Q. We cut open a spaghetti squash and it had green sprouts growing inside. Have you seen this before? Is it safe to eat the squash? – B.O., Rensselaer, IN

A. Although uncommon, premature sprouting of seeds inside a fruit sometimes occurs in squash, tomatoes, peppers, corn, strawberries, and other species. This early seed germination inside the fruit is called vivipary.

Normally, the balance of plant growth regulators inside a fruit inhibit germination until seeds are harvested from the pulp. But occasionally, seeds begin to germinate while still attached to the fruit. Environmental conditions are the most likely cause, though some plants are genetically predisposed towards vivipary. Also, overripe fruit may be more prone to vivipary. In tomatoes, cool temperatures coupled with low light conditions may promote premature seed germination inside moist, warm fruit.

Regardless of the cause, the squash should be safe to eat.

 

Ginkgo tree leaves and 3 fruit shown laying together on grass.  Photo credit: Purdue Arboretum
Ginkgo fruit are notoriously malodorous!
Photo credit: Purdue Arboretum

Q. We have two ginkgo trees in our front yard; one is male, one female. Therefore, we have the fruit. The trees are roughly 25 feet tall, so it would be difficult to spray them before they make fruit. Do you have any suggestions on how to neutralize the awful smell that the ripe fruit has? They cover our front yard and the sidewalk, so it’s a mess. We continually clean them up, but the smell! They are beautiful trees, but September and October, not so good. Thank you for any suggestions. – J.F., Indianapolis, IN

A. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of anything that can effectively neutralize the odor. The fruits of the ginkgo tree are notoriously malodorous! The species has separate male and female trees, as you’ve noted; the goal is to plant only males to avoid fruit production. Timing of fruit prevention sprays is critical, and thorough coverage is not easy with such large trees. The female trees produce flowers that are inconspicuous, petalless, green, stick-like structures and are very easy to miss. And even if timed well, the fruit prevention sprays are very unlikely to be 100% effective in preventing fruit.

The only way to prevent fruit is to remove the female tree. You would not be the first to have cut down an otherwise fine specimen due to this fruiting problem. Wish I had a better prognosis!

 


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