With the “Bear Claw” (aka “Bear Paw”) ear deformity, the tip of the ear is somewhat flattened and branches on an otherwise normal corn ear giving it a bear claw or paw appearance.
This problem is thought to be associated with chilling injury during ear formation and is more evident in certain sweet corn genetic backgrounds. Low temperatures disrupt normal kernel development resulting in anomalous ear growth. Occurrence of these abnormalities is rare.
Avoid planting hybrids susceptible to this abnormality especially under conditions where cold temperatures during ear formation is likely. Some seed companies market corn varieties exhibiting bear claw ears as an ornamental/oddity trait.
Boyer, R. 2006. Personal communication. Harris Moran Seed Company.
Brochard, H. 2007. Personal Communication.