Flower stalk on burley tobacco.  Shelby County.  7:52 p.m. EDT.  July 13, 2002.

Photographer's comments:
     Rare in most other parts of the country, this is a common sight in rural Kentucky.  The flower stalks of tobacco shoot up in late summer, or earlier if the plants are stressed.  We've had a dry summer in central Kentucky this year and the tobacco is already beginning to flower.
     When all the plants in a field have begun to flower, the tobacco grower will walk the rows and snap the flower stalks off the plants.  "Topping" the tobacco forces the plant to put its remaining energy into the leaves and not into flowering and going to seed.
     Commercially grown tobacco, nicotiana tabacum, is a relative of the garden flower nicotiana, sometimes called nicotania.
     By the way, burley is the type of tobacco grown in most of Kentucky.  It comprises roughly a fourth of the tobacco used in cigarettes, depending on the brand.  
Other photos of this subject:
     1) Detail of a single bloom in the cluster.
     2) Topping tobacco in a field in Franklin County.  August 28, 2002.  
Posted July 15, 2002.