No, this isn’t Photoshop or a gemstone-studded trinket—just an ear of corn. Seedsman Greg Schoen of the Seeds Trust got this “Glass Gems” corn from his “corn-teacher,” a part-Cherokee man in his 80s. He planted the seeds, had a gorgeous harvest last fall, and posted the posts on Seeds Trust’s Facebook page in October. Then last week, the photos of the gem-like corn got picked up on the internet and went viral. Good luck trying to get your hands on any seeds now…
But kernel color is a fascinating—dare we say, colorful—topic in the annals of genetics research. For one, why are there so many vibrant colors in a single ear of corn? You don’t usually see flowers of different colors on a single tree. Each kernel is actually a different corn plant (or the seed of one) with a unique mix of genes inherited from its parents. That’s why counting up kernels of different colors in the more familiar purple and yellow corn cobs is a common way of teaching how pigment genes are inherited in Mendelian genetics.