The corn plant (Zea mays) is a warm-weather annual in the grass family which provides a major source of food for humans worldwide. In 2008, around 30.9 billion bushels of corn were produced.
The corn plant is secured in the soil by dense balls of thin, fibrous roots. These roots emerge from the subterranean stalk at junctures called nodes.
The stalk, or single erect stem, extends skyward from the ground. Most corn varieties in the United States attain stalk heights of between 7 and 10 feet.
As the roots below the ground emerge from nodes, the long, glossy green leaves of the corn plant wrap around the stalk at nodes. One corn plant produces 16 to 22 such leaves on average.
Once the stalk and leaves have grown, branched structures known as tassels appear at the top of the corn plant. These tassels bear small, pollen-rich flowers that contain the corn's male sex cells.
From the leaf nodes, female flower organs called ears develop. Ears consist of eggs attached to a cob, wrapped within a leafy sheath called a husk. Each egg emits a long strand of corn silk, which eventually emerges from the top of the husk. Pollination occurs when pollen falls onto the silk, transforming the egg into a fertilized kernel. Kernels are the part of the corn plant consumed by humans and other mammals.