Cornsilk: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on cornsilk

Zea mays, a member of the Poaceae family, is often 2.5 m (meters) (8 ft) in height, though some natural strains can grow 12 m (40 ft). The stem has the appearance of a bamboo cane and is commonly composed of 20 internodes of 18 cm (7 in) length. A leaf grows from each node, which is generally 9 cm (3.5 in) in width and 120 cm (4 ft) in length.

Ears develop above a few of the leaves in the midsection of the plant, between the stem and leaf sheath, to a length of 18 cm (7 in). They are female inflorescences, tightly enveloped by several layers of ear leaves commonly called husks. The apex of the stem ends in the tassel, an inflorescence of male flowers. When the tassel is mature and conditions are suitably warm and dry, anthers on the tassel dehisce and release pollen. Maize pollen is anemophilous (dispersed by wind), and because of its large settling velocity, most pollen falls within a few meters of the tassel.

Elongated stigmas, called silks, emerge from the whorl of husk leaves at the end of the ear.

They are often pale yellow and 7 in (178 mm) in length, like tufts of hair in appearance. At the end of each is a carpel, which may develop into a "kernel" if fertilized by a pollen grain.

The pericarp of the fruit is fused with the seed coat referred to as "caryopsis", typical of the grasses, and the entire kernel is often referred to as the "seed". The cob is close to a multiple fruit in structure, except that the individual fruits (the kernels) never fuse into a single mass. The grains are about the size of peas, and adhere in regular rows around a white, pithy substance, which forms the ear. An ear commonly holds 600 kernels. They are of various colors: blackish, bluish-gray, purple, green, red, white and yellow. It is in flower from July to October, and the seeds ripen from September to October.

common names & nomenclature
The word maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taíno word for the plant, maiz.

Also known as:
corn, maize, cornsilk, corn silk, yu mi shu, indian corn, sweet corn

Cornsilk, for supplements or cosmetics
Cornsilk: Where in the World
habitat and range for cornsilk

Zea mays is native to Central America and the Andes, and is widely cultivated in the Americas and Europe.

Cornsilk: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting cornsilk

Zea mays prefers a warm sunny location with ample moisture in the growing season. Most often grown as a field crop.

This plant requires a well drained, rich soil.

Sow seeds in April in individual pots in a greenhouse. Grow on quickly and plant out after the last expected frosts. A direct outdoor sowing, especially of some of the less sweet varieties, can be tried in May.

Harvest cornsilk at the end of the growing season, when it starts to turn brown and partially dried.

Dried cornsilk may be stored as cut pieces or powder. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Cornsilk: The Rest of the Story
cornsilk history, folklore, literature & more

Cornsilk (often corn silk) are the threadlike strands that are seen protruding from the top end of an ear of corn. They can range in color from yellow to brown.

cornmeal and native cultures
A crop native to Central and South America—Mayan, Incan, and American Indians made good use of the many parts of corn. Though primarily a staple food, corn was also used medicinally by these cultures. The cornmeal (dried kernels) were made into a poultice and applied to bruising or other inflamations such as swellings and sores. The Aztecs created a decoction of cornmeal for dysentery and for new mothers to help the supply of their breast milk.

The silky threads that wrap around the cob (called cornsilkthat are actually elongated stigmas) held the most valuable in medicinal use and have been found to contain significant amounts of potassium.

cornmeal and native cultures
In China corn silk was thought to have sweet and neutral properties.

corn farming and processing
Not suprsisingly corn is almost exclusively grown as food even though it also can be processed to have application as a fuel, a solvent, a charcoal, insulation, adhesives, ornament and more. After having possibly originated in Peru, corn has become a staple food in many regions world-wide.

It is propogated in early spring from seed which grows into a nodded stalk. Though corn produces both a male and female flower it is the female that produces corn meal. You can see the male flower atop the stalk, from this position it has occasion to release pollen that is carried wind-borne to the stigmas. Each stigma will produce a single kernel of maize if pollinated.

Harvested young ears of corn (and corn silk) are edible raw, but with the plant's maturity the kernels and silk become too tough to eat without boiling first.

The corn silk is harvested with the edible corn and the separated and dried separately.