Field of Science

Pepper sex? You must be kidding.

TPP just got this image by email, and if this is the way 2014 is going to go, it'll be a long year. 
Flip the bell peppers over to check their gender. The ones with four bumps are female and those with three bumps are male. The female peppers are full of seeds, but sweeter and better for eating raw and the males are better for cooking.
OK, there's the message that accompanied this image.  What a crock!  Fundamentally peppers, like most members of the nightshade family have 2 carpels (modified leaves) composing their pistil; those shown have 3 and 4 carpels because we've selected for bigger peppers so there are more units composing the fruits.  They can even have 5 sometimes.  Most of your smaller peppers have the standard two carpels.  The 4-lobed fruit will have one more placental ridge bearing seeds, but on average for the variety, in every other way they will be the same.  This is where a sample size of two, combined with someone who doesn't know any botany, led to a completely ridiculous assertion.  Fruits are part of the asexual phase of the plant life cycle so there are no sexes among fruit, and while the fruit are what develops from the floral "gynoecium", from the "ovary", there are no sexes here either, just popular, traditional, and very wrong names for flower parts.  Plant sex actually occurs at a different level, although people commonly refer to flower sex.  Pollen grains are dwarf males and way down inside the pistil, inside the "ovules" (actually megasporangia), the megaspore will develop into a very dwarf female.  So fruit sex is just pure bull.  No idea of the source, and it really doesn't matter.  A lot of crap floats around on the web, and at least this is harmless bogus information.  Surprised they could count that high. 


Rosie Redfield said...

A similar urban myth about eggplants has been circulating for many years. It's been debunked many times but is still popular among credulous foodies; try Googling 'eggplant male female' or 'eggplant sex'.

The Phytophactor said...

Egad! Rosie is right! The same crazy notion has been circulated about eggplants especially among "foodies". The link also includes an adequate debunking. Well, thanks for pointing this out; TPP was out of the "foodie" loop.