What I learned last week #13

by Janie Jones

So, we continue to study plants in biology.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m not much interested in plant biology, but this week there were a few interesting trivia bits about fruits.  Many of you may have long been aware that fruit is not just apples and berries and bananas.  It is actually the seed carrying part of the plant.  So, wheat grain is a fruit, almonds are fruit, pumpkins are fruit, tomatoes are fruit, even those annoying prickly burrs that get stuck in your dog’s hair are fruits- albeit ones we don’t eat.

What most people don’t know is that what you commonly think of as a berry is probably not a berry at all.  Raspberries are not berries.  Not in the scientific sense of the word.  Grapes are berries, tomatoes are berries, peppers and blueberries are berries.  Strawberries, though, are not.

What most of us grow up thinking of berries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, are compound aggregate fruits.  This means that each “berry” is actually a cluster of multiple fruits.  Those little brownish “seeds” on the outside of the strawberry?  Not actually the seeds.  They are actually the fruit, and the seeds are within.

And, pineapples, bananas and figs are actually a single fruit that requires multiple flowers to grow together to form the fruit.

Bizarre?  A bit.

You know those apples, the sweet delicious fruit that if you eat one a day will keep the doctor away?  Not actually the fruit.  The part we make into pie, applesauce or just eat right off of the core is actually all parts of the flower.  The fruit is only the bit of the core around the seeds that we normally throw away.

You too can be a plant taxonomist.  Use this dichotomous key I had to make for a biology project in a previous class to identify a variety of fruits in the image below.  Have fun!  You just know I did….

Fisher_dichotomous key fruit picture

Dichotomous Key-Family: Fruit

1a. Skin on fruit is textured…………………. skip to 2

1b. Skin on fruit is smooth…………………..skip to 6

 

2a. Leaves are present on fruit……………… skip to 3

2b. Leaves are absent from fruit……………. skip to 4

 

3a. Leaves on fruit are stiff and pointy……..Ananas comosus

3b. Leaves on fruit are floppy and rounded…Fragaria ananassa

 

4a. Fruit has a hollow center…………………Rubus idaeus

4b. Fruit is solid…………………………….. skip to 5

 

5a. Skin color is brown………………………Actinidia deliciosa

5b. Skin color is not brown………………….Prunus persica

 

6a. Shape of fruit is mostly spherical……….. skip to 7

6b. Shape of fruit is not spherical……………skip to 8

 

7a. Fruit is hard and firm (does not squish)…Malus domestica

7b. Fruit is soft and springy (easily squished).Vitis vinifera

 

8a. Fruit is long and skinny………………….Musa sapientum

8b. Fruit is not long and skinny……………..Averrhoa carambola

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