Unlike most grasses, corn plants have separate male and female flowers. The tassel at the top of the plant contains the male reproductive organs that produce the pollen. Lower, where the leaf blades attach to the stem, the plant forms female flowers that contain the ovules. Each ovule has a long, thin silk that grows up to the top of the cob. After the silks at the top of the cob capture the pollen grains on the sticky stigmas, the male reproductive cells travel down the long styles to pollinate the ovules.
Corn typically cross-pollinates
as the wind blows the pollen from one plant to the silks of other corn plants. Corn can pollinate itself, though self-pollination
is not common. Instead, cross-pollination helps maintain the genetic diversity of corn because genetic information from two different parents mixes during fertilization of the ovule.