So small it’s likely most people have never noticed them at all. Tiny white threads that appear for a brief week or two during late spring in the vineyard. But . . . without them there wouldn’t be any grapes and of course without grapes, we wouldn’t have wine!
While they’re not showy flowers like apple or pomegranate blossoms, they’re just as vital to the fruiting process as the aforementioned conspicuous posies which yield their luscious summer bounty. And as their fragile appearance suggests, the tiny green buds, also called calyptras, won’t burst open to reveal pistil and stamen and in turn produce fruit unless conditions are ideal. Flowering and fruit set are occasions that keep growers on pins and needles anxiously observing the weather for any frost, wind, or rain which might severely blight the year’s harvest.
On the other hand, these unostentatious flowers are conveniently adapted to self pollinate. In time, the stamen-carrying pollen will fertilize the pistil in an hermaphroditic process. Once fertilized, the flowers will develop into seeds surrounded by a berry and the unfertilized ones will fall to the ground as shatter. Whereas only the female plants in wild grapevines can produce fruit, in our cultivated varieties, all of the vines will bear clusters of grapes.
Perhaps when you visit one of California’s vineyards next spring, you’ll look for an opportunity to observe these delicate unassuming blooms in appreciation of what they have in store!