Are Bell Pepper Lobes An Indicator Of Pepper Plant Gender And Seed Production?

pepper lobes
pepper lobes
(Image credit: bahadir-yeniceri)

You've likely seen or heard the claim floating around social media that one can tell the gender of a bell pepper, or which has more seeds, by the number of lobes or bumps, along the bottom of the fruit. The idea of this sparked some curiosity, naturally, so I decided to find out for myself if this is true. To my knowledge of gardening, I have never heard of any specific gender associated with these plants. Here's what I found.

Pepper Gender Myth

It's believed that the number of bell pepper lobes has something to do with its sex (gender). Females supposedly have four lobes, are full of seeds and sweeter tasting while males have three lobes and are less sweet. So is this a true indicator of pepper plant gender? Fact: It is the flower, not the fruit, which is the sexual organ in plants. Bell peppers produce flowers having both male and female parts (known as “perfect” flowers). As such, there is no particular gender associated with the fruit. The majority of large bell pepper varieties, which top out at about 3 inches (7.5 cm.) wide by 4 inches (10 cm.) long, will normally have three to four lobes. That being said, some types have less and others more. So if the lobes were an indicator to the gender of peppers, then what the heck would a two- or five-lobed pepper be? The truth of the matter is that the number of bell pepper lobes has no bearing on the sex of the plant -- it produces both on one plant. That settles gender.

Pepper Seeds and Taste

So what about the claim in which the number of lobes a pepper fruit has dictates its seediness or taste? Fact: As to a bell pepper having four lobes containing more seeds than one having three, this could be possible, but the overall size of the fruit seems to be a better indicator of this -- though I would argue that size doesn't matter. I've had some gargantuan peppers with barely a seed inside while some of the smaller ones have had numerous seeds. In fact, all bell peppers contain one or more chambers from which seeds develop. The number of chambers is genetic, having no impact on the number of seeds produced. Fact: The number of bell pepper lobes, be it three or four (or whatever) has no bearing on how sweet a pepper tastes. In actuality, the environment in which the pepper is grown and the nutrition of the soil has more of an effect on this. The variety of bell pepper also determines the sweetness of fruit. Well, there you have it. In addition to not being a factor in pepper plant gender, the number of lobes a bell pepper has does not determine seed production or taste. Guess you can't believe everything you see or hear, so don't assume otherwise. When in doubt, or simply curious, do your research.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.