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Fresh Fruit Blackberryraspberrystrawberry.jpg
Fresh Fruit
Culinary fruits Culinary fruits front view.jpg
Culinary fruits
Pomegranates have diverse cultural-religious significance Pomegranate fruit - whole and piece with arils.jpg
Pomegranates have diverse cultural-religious significance

In botany, a fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants (also known as angiosperms) formed from the ovary after flowering.


Fruits are the means by which angiosperms disseminate seeds. Edible fruits, in particular, have propagated with the movements of humans and animals in a symbiotic relationship as a means for seed dispersal and nutrition; in fact, humans and many animals have become dependent on fruits as a source of food. [1] Accordingly, fruits account for a substantial fraction of the world's agricultural output, and some (such as the apple and the pomegranate) have acquired extensive cultural and symbolic meanings.

In common language usage, "fruit" normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of a plant that are sweet or sour, and edible in the raw state, such as apples, bananas, grapes, lemons, oranges, and strawberries. On the other hand, in botanical usage, "fruit" includes many structures that are not commonly called "fruits", such as bean pods, corn kernels, tomatoes, and wheat grains. [2] [3] The section of a fungus that produces spores is also called a fruiting body. [4]

Botanic fruit and culinary fruit

Venn diagram representing the relationship between (culinary) vegetables and botanical fruits Botanical Fruit and Culinary Vegetables.png
Venn diagram representing the relationship between (culinary) vegetables and botanical fruits

Many common terms for seeds and fruit do not correspond to the botanical classifications. In culinary terminology, a fruit is usually any sweet-tasting plant part, especially a botanical fruit; a nut is any hard, oily, and shelled plant product; and a vegetable is any savory or less sweet plant product. [5] However, in botany, a fruit is the ripened ovary or carpel that contains seeds, a nut is a type of fruit and not a seed, and a seed is a ripened ovule. [6]

Examples of culinary "vegetables" and nuts that are botanically fruit include corn, cucurbits (e.g., cucumber, pumpkin, and squash), eggplant, legumes (beans, peanuts, and peas), sweet pepper, and tomato. In addition, some spices, such as allspice and chili pepper, are fruits, botanically speaking. [6] In contrast, rhubarb is often referred to as a fruit, because it is used to make sweet desserts such as pies, though only the petiole (leaf stalk) of the rhubarb plant is edible, [7] and edible gymnosperm seeds are often given fruit names, e.g., ginkgo nuts and pine nuts.

Botanically, a cereal grain, such as corn, rice, or wheat, is also a kind of fruit, termed a caryopsis. However, the fruit wall is very thin and is fused to the seed coat, so almost all of the edible grain is actually a seed. [8]


The outer, often edible layer, is the pericarp, formed from the ovary and surrounding the seeds, although in some species other tissues contribute to or form the edible portion. The pericarp may be described in three layers from outer to inner, the epicarp, mesocarp and endocarp.

Fruit that bears a prominent pointed terminal projection is said to be beaked. [9]


The development sequence of a typical drupe, the nectarine (Prunus persica) over a 7.5 month period, from bud formation in early winter to fruit ripening in midsummer (see image page for further information) Nectarine Fruit Development.jpg
The development sequence of a typical drupe, the nectarine (Prunus persica) over a 7.5 month period, from bud formation in early winter to fruit ripening in midsummer (see image page for further information)

A fruit results from maturation of one or more flowers, and the gynoecium of the flower(s) forms all or part of the fruit. [10]

Inside the ovary/ovaries are one or more ovules where the megagametophyte contains the egg cell. [11] After double fertilization, these ovules will become seeds. The ovules are fertilized in a process that starts with pollination, which involves the movement of pollen from the stamens to the stigma of flowers. After pollination, a tube grows from the pollen through the stigma into the ovary to the ovule and two sperm are transferred from the pollen to the megagametophyte. Within the megagametophyte one of the two sperm unites with the egg, forming a zygote, and the second sperm enters the central cell forming the endosperm mother cell, which completes the double fertilization process. [12] [13] Later the zygote will give rise to the embryo of the seed, and the endosperm mother cell will give rise to endosperm, a nutritive tissue used by the embryo.

As the ovules develop into seeds, the ovary begins to ripen and the ovary wall, the pericarp, may become fleshy (as in berries or drupes), or form a hard outer covering (as in nuts). In some multiseeded fruits, the extent to which the flesh develops is proportional to the number of fertilized ovules. [14] The pericarp is often differentiated into two or three distinct layers called the exocarp (outer layer, also called epicarp), mesocarp (middle layer), and endocarp (inner layer). In some fruits, especially simple fruits derived from an inferior ovary, other parts of the flower (such as the floral tube, including the petals, sepals, and stamens), fuse with the ovary and ripen with it. In other cases, the sepals, petals and/or stamens and style of the flower fall off. When such other floral parts are a significant part of the fruit, it is called an accessory fruit . Since other parts of the flower may contribute to the structure of the fruit, it is important to study flower structure to understand how a particular fruit forms. [3]

There are three general modes of fruit development:

Plant scientists have grouped fruits into three main groups, simple fruits, aggregate fruits, and composite or multiple fruits. [15] The groupings are not evolutionarily relevant, since many diverse plant taxa may be in the same group, but reflect how the flower organs are arranged and how the fruits develop.

Simple fruit

Dewberry flowers. Note the multiple pistils, each of which will produce a drupelet. Each flower will become a blackberry-like aggregate fruit. DewberriesWeb.jpg
Dewberry flowers. Note the multiple pistils, each of which will produce a drupelet. Each flower will become a blackberry-like aggregate fruit.
Dewberry fruit Rubus caesius fruit - Keila.jpg
Dewberry fruit

Simple fruits can be either dry or fleshy, and result from the ripening of a simple or compound ovary in a flower with only one pistil. Dry fruits may be either dehiscent (they open to discharge seeds), or indehiscent (they do not open to discharge seeds). [16] Types of dry, simple fruits, and examples of each, include:

Fruits in which part or all of the pericarp (fruit wall) is fleshy at maturity are simple fleshy fruits. Types of simple, fleshy, fruits (with examples) include:

An aggregate fruit, or etaerio, develops from a single flower with numerous simple pistils. [17]

The pome fruits of the family Rosaceae, (including apples, pears, rosehips, and saskatoon berry) are a syncarpous fleshy fruit, a simple fruit, developing from a half-inferior ovary. [18]

Schizocarp fruits form from a syncarpous ovary and do not really dehisce, but rather split into segments with one or more seeds; they include a number of different forms from a wide range of families. [15] Carrot seed is an example.

Lilium unripe capsule fruit Lilyfruit.jpg
Lilium unripe capsule fruit

Aggregate fruit

Detail of raspberry flower Longitudinal section of raspberry flower.gif
Detail of raspberry flower

Aggregate fruits form from single flowers that have multiple carpels which are not joined together, i.e. each pistil contains one carpel. Each pistil forms a fruitlet, and collectively the fruitlets are called an etaerio. Four types of aggregate fruits include etaerios of achenes, follicles, drupelets, and berries. Ranunculaceae species, including Clematis and Ranunculus have an etaerio of achenes, Calotropis has an etaerio of follicles, and Rubus species like raspberry, have an etaerio of drupelets. Annona have an etaerio of berries. [19] [20]

The raspberry, whose pistils are termed drupelets because each is like a small drupe attached to the receptacle. In some bramble fruits (such as blackberry) the receptacle is elongated and part of the ripe fruit, making the blackberry an aggregate-accessory fruit. [21] The strawberry is also an aggregate-accessory fruit, only one in which the seeds are contained in achenes. [22] In all these examples, the fruit develops from a single flower with numerous pistils.

Multiple fruits

A multiple fruit is one formed from a cluster of flowers (called an inflorescence ). Each flower produces a fruit, but these mature into a single mass. [23] Examples are the pineapple, fig, mulberry, osage-orange, and breadfruit.

In some plants, such as this noni, flowers are produced regularly along the stem and it is possible to see together examples of flowering, fruit development, and fruit ripening. Noni fruit dev.jpg
In some plants, such as this noni, flowers are produced regularly along the stem and it is possible to see together examples of flowering, fruit development, and fruit ripening.

In the photograph on the right, stages of flowering and fruit development in the noni or Indian mulberry (Morinda citrifolia) can be observed on a single branch. First an inflorescence of white flowers called a head is produced. After fertilization, each flower develops into a drupe, and as the drupes expand, they become connate (merge) into a multiple fleshy fruit called a syncarp.


Berries are another type of fleshy fruit; they are simple fruit created from a single ovary. [24] The ovary may be compound, with several carpels. Types include (examples follow in the table below):

Accessory fruit

The fruit of a pineapple includes tissue from the sepals as well as the pistils of many flowers. It is an accessory fruit and a multiple fruit. Pineapple and cross section.jpg
The fruit of a pineapple includes tissue from the sepals as well as the pistils of many flowers. It is an accessory fruit and a multiple fruit.

Some or all of the edible part of accessory fruit is not generated by the ovary. Accessory fruit can be simple, aggregate, or multiple, i.e., they can include one or more pistils and other parts from the same flower, or the pistils and other parts of many flowers.

Table of fruit examples

Types of fleshy fruits
True berryPepoHesperidiumAggregate fruitMultiple fruitAccessory fruit
Banana, Blackcurrant, Blueberry, Chili pepper, Cranberry, Eggplant, Gooseberry, Grape, Guava, Kiwifruit, Lucuma, Pomegranate, Redcurrant, Tomato Cucumber, Gourd, Melon, Pumpkin Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange Blackberry, Boysenberry, Raspberry Fig, Hedge apple, Mulberry, Pineapple Apple, Pineapple, Rose hip, Stone fruit, Strawberry

Seedless fruits

Some seedless fruits Dish with fruits.jpg
Some seedless fruits
An arrangement of fruits commonly thought of as vegetables, including tomatoes and various squash FruitArrangement.jpg
An arrangement of fruits commonly thought of as vegetables, including tomatoes and various squash

Seedlessness is an important feature of some fruits of commerce. Commercial cultivars of bananas and pineapples are examples of seedless fruits. Some cultivars of citrus fruits (especially grapefruit, mandarin oranges, navel oranges), satsumas, table grapes, and watermelons are valued for their seedlessness. In some species, seedlessness is the result of parthenocarpy , where fruits set without fertilization. Parthenocarpic fruit set may or may not require pollination, but most seedless citrus fruits require a stimulus from pollination to produce fruit.[ citation needed ]

Seedless bananas and grapes are triploids, and seedlessness results from the abortion of the embryonic plant that is produced by fertilization, a phenomenon known as stenospermocarpy , which requires normal pollination and fertilization. [25]

Seed dissemination

Variations in fruit structures largely depend on their seeds' mode of dispersal. This dispersal can be achieved by animals, explosive dehiscence, water, or wind. [26]

Some fruits have coats covered with spikes or hooked burrs, either to prevent themselves from being eaten by animals, or to stick to the feathers, hairs, or legs of animals, using them as dispersal agents. Examples include cocklebur and unicorn plant. [27] [28]

The sweet flesh of many fruits is "deliberately" appealing to animals, so that the seeds held within are eaten and "unwittingly" carried away and deposited (i.e., defecated) at a distance from the parent. Likewise, the nutritious, oily kernels of nuts are appealing to rodents (such as squirrels), which hoard them in the soil to avoid starving during the winter, thus giving those seeds that remain uneaten the chance to germinate and grow into a new plant away from their parent. [6]

Other fruits are elongated and flattened out naturally, and so become thin, like wings or helicopter blades, e.g., elm, maple, and tuliptree. This is an evolutionary mechanism to increase dispersal distance away from the parent, via wind. Other wind-dispersed fruit have tiny "parachutes", e.g., dandelion, milkweed, salsify. [26]

Coconut fruits can float thousands of miles in the ocean to spread seeds. Some other fruits that can disperse via water are nipa palm and screw pine. [26]

Some fruits fling seeds substantial distances (up to 100 m in sandbox tree) via explosive dehiscence or other mechanisms, e.g., impatiens and squirting cucumber. [29]

Food uses

Many hundreds of fruits, including fleshy fruits (like apple, kiwifruit, mango, peach, pear, and watermelon) are commercially valuable as human food, eaten both fresh and as jams, marmalade and other preserves. Fruits are also used in manufactured foods (e.g., cakes, cookies, ice cream, muffins, or yogurt) or beverages, such as fruit juices (e.g., apple juice, grape juice, or orange juice) or alcoholic beverages (e.g., brandy, fruit beer, or wine). [30] Fruits are also used for gift giving, e.g., in the form of Fruit Baskets and Fruit Bouquets.[ citation needed ]

Many "vegetables" in culinary parlance are botanical fruits, including bell pepper, cucumber, eggplant, green bean, okra, pumpkin, squash, tomato, and zucchini. [31] Olive fruit is pressed for olive oil. Spices like allspice, black pepper, paprika, and vanilla are derived from berries. [32]


All fruits benefit from proper post harvest care, and in many fruits, the plant hormone ethylene causes ripening. Therefore, maintaining most fruits in an efficient cold chain is optimal for post harvest storage, with the aim of extending and ensuring shelf life. [33]

Nutritional value

Each point refers to a 100 g serving of the fresh fruit, the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C is on the X axis and mg of Potassium (K) on the Y (offset by 100 mg which every fruit has) and the size of the disk represents amount of fiber (key in upper right). Watermelon, which has almost no fiber, and low levels of vitamin C and potassium, comes in last place. Fruit Nutrition.png
Each point refers to a 100 g serving of the fresh fruit, the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C is on the X axis and mg of Potassium (K) on the Y (offset by 100 mg which every fruit has) and the size of the disk represents amount of fiber (key in upper right). Watermelon, which has almost no fiber, and low levels of vitamin C and potassium, comes in last place.

As excessive intake of added sugar is harmful and fruits are relatively high in sugar it is often questioned whether fruits are actually healthy food. It is in fact difficult to get excessive amounts of sugar (e. g. fructose) from fruits as they also contain fibers, water and have significant chewing resistance. An overview on numerous studies can be found here. [34] Studies show that fruits are very satisfying (for example apples or oranges). [35] In addition, the fibres contained in fruits promote satiety [36] and help lose weight [37] and have cholesterol-lowering effects. [38]

Fresh fruits are generally high in fiber, vitamin C, and water. [39]

Regular consumption of fruit is generally associated with reduced risks of several diseases and functional declines associated with aging. [40] [41] A current review of meta-analyses even comes to the conclusion that current assessments might even significantly underestimate the protective associations of fruit and vegetable intakes. [42]

Food safety

For food safety, the CDC recommends proper fruit handling and preparation to reduce the risk of food contamination and foodborne illness. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be carefully selected; at the store, they should not be damaged or bruised; and precut pieces should be refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

All fruits and vegetables should be rinsed before eating. This recommendation also applies to produce with rinds or skins that are not eaten. It should be done just before preparing or eating to avoid premature spoilage.

Fruits and vegetables should be kept separate from raw foods like meat, poultry, and seafood, as well as from utensils that have come in contact with raw foods. Fruits and vegetables that are not going to be cooked should be thrown away if they have touched raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

All cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated within two hours. After a certain time, harmful bacteria may grow on them and increase the risk of foodborne illness. [43]


Fruit allergies make up about 10 percent of all food related allergies. [44] [45]

Nonfood uses

Because fruits have been such a major part of the human diet, various cultures have developed many different uses for fruits they do not depend on for food. For example:

Porcelain vine is usually planted for its showy, colourful berries. PorcelainBerry.JPG
Porcelain vine is usually planted for its showy, colourful berries.

Fruit flies

Fruit flies are species of flies that lay their eggs in the flesh of fruit. The pupae then consume the fruit before maturing into adult flies. Some species lay eggs in fruit that is done maturing or rotten; however, some species select hosts that are not yet ripe. Thus, these fruit flies cause significant damage to fruit crops. An example of this type of fruit fly is the Queensland fruit fly ( Bactrocera tyroni ) B. tyroni causes more than $28.5 million in damage to Australian fruit crops a year. [54] Combating this pest without the use of harmful pesticides is an active area of research.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Berry small edible fruit, in culinary usage

A berry is a small, pulpy, and often edible fruit. Typically, berries are juicy, rounded, brightly colored, sweet, sour or tart, and do not have a stone or pit, although many pips or seeds may be present. Common examples are strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, red currants, white currants and blackcurrants. In Britain, soft fruit is a horticultural term for such fruits.

Drupe Fleshy fruit with hard inner layer (endocarp or stone) surrounding the seed

In botany, a drupe is an indehiscent fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a single shell of hardened endocarp with a seed (kernel) inside. These fruits usually develop from a single carpel, and mostly from flowers with superior ovaries.


The Elaeagnaceae are a plant family, the oleaster family, of the order Rosales comprising small trees and shrubs, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, south into tropical Asia and Australia. The family has about 60 species in three genera.

Nut (fruit) In botany, type of dry indehiscent fruit

A nut is a fruit composed of an inedible hard shell and a seed, which is generally edible. In general usage and in a culinary sense, a wide variety of dried seeds are called nuts, but in a botanical context "nut" implies that the shell does not open to release the seed (indehiscent). The translation of "nut" in certain languages frequently requires paraphrases, as the word is ambiguous.

Capsule (fruit)

In botany a capsule is a type of simple, dry, though rarely fleshy dehiscent fruit produced by many species of angiosperms.

Achene Class of simple non-opening dry fruits

An achene is a type of simple dry fruit produced by many species of flowering plants. Achenes are monocarpellate and indehiscent. Achenes contain a single seed that nearly fills the pericarp, but does not adhere to it. In many species, what is called the "seed" is an achene, a fruit containing the seed. The seed-like appearance is owed to the hardening of the fruit wall (pericarp), which encloses the solitary seed so closely as to seem like a seed coat.


In botany, a pome is a type of fruit produced by flowering plants in the subtribe Malinae of the family Rosaceae.

Parthenocarpy Production of fruit without fertilisation which makes the fruit seedless

In botany and horticulture, parthenocarpy is the natural or artificially induced production of fruit without fertilisation of ovules, which makes the fruit seedless. Stenospermocarpy may also produce apparently seedless fruit, but the seeds are actually aborted while they are still small. Parthenocarpy occasionally occurs as a mutation in nature; if it affects every flower the plant can no longer sexually reproduce but might be able to propagate by apomixis or by vegetative means. Examples of this include many citrus varieties that undergo nucellar embryony for reproduction, instead of solely sexual reproduction, and can yield seedless fruits.


In seed plants, the ovule is the structure that gives rise to and contains the female reproductive cells. It consists of three parts: the integument, forming its outer layer, the nucellus, and the female gametophyte in its center. The female gametophyte — specifically termed a megagametophyte— is also called the embryo sac in angiosperms. The megagametophyte produces an egg cell for the purpose of fertilization.

Plant reproductive morphology Study of the physical form and structure (the morphology) of those parts of plants directly or indirectly concerned with sexual reproduction

Plant reproductive morphology is the study of the physical form and structure of those parts of plants directly or indirectly concerned with sexual reproduction.

Gynoecium The female organs of a flower

Gynoecium is most commonly used as a collective term for the parts of a flower that produce ovules and ultimately develop into the fruit and seeds. The gynoecium is the innermost whorl of a flower; it consists of pistils and is typically surrounded by the pollen-producing reproductive organs, the stamens, collectively called the androecium. The gynoecium is often referred to as the "female" portion of the flower, although rather than directly producing female gametes, the gynoecium produces megaspores, each of which develops into a female gametophyte which then produces egg cells.

Aggregate fruit

An aggregate fruit or etaerio is a fruit that develops from the merger of several ovaries that were separated in a single flower. In contrast, a simple fruit develops from one ovary. In languages other than English, the meanings of aggregate and multiple fruit are reversed, so that aggregate fruits merge several flowers. The differences in meaning are due to a reversal in the terminology by John Lindley, which has been followed by most English-language authors.

Multiple fruit

Multiple fruits, also called collective fruits, are fruiting bodies formed from a cluster of fruiting flowers, the inflorescence. Each flower in the inflorescence produces a fruit, but these mature into a single mass in which each flower has produced a true fruit. After flowering the mass is called an infructescence. Examples are the fig, pineapple, mulberry, osage-orange, and breadfruit.

Ovary (botany)

In the flowering plants, an ovary is a part of the female reproductive organ of the flower or gynoecium. Specifically, it is the part of the pistil which holds the ovule(s) and is located above or below or at the point of connection with the base of the petals and sepals. The pistil may be made up of one carpel or of several fused carpels, and therefore the ovary can contain part of one carpel or parts of several fused carpels. Above the ovary is the style and the stigma, which is where the pollen lands and germinates to grow down through the style to the ovary, and, for each individual pollen grain, to fertilize one individual ovule. Some wind pollinated flowers have much reduced and modified ovaries.

Berry (botany) Botanical fruit with fleshy pericarp, containing one or many seeds

In botany, a berry is a fleshy fruit without a stone (pit) produced from a single flower containing one ovary. Berries so defined include grapes, currants, and tomatoes, as well as cucumbers, eggplants (aubergines) and bananas, but exclude certain fruits that meet the culinary definition of berries, such as strawberries and raspberries. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire outer layer of the ovary wall ripens into a potentially edible "pericarp". Berries may be formed from one or more carpels from the same flower. The seeds are usually embedded in the fleshy interior of the ovary, but there are some non-fleshy exceptions, such as peppers, with air rather than pulp around their seeds.

Flower Structure found in some plants; aka: blossom

A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants. The biological function of a flower is to facilitate reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs. Flowers may facilitate outcrossing resulting from cross pollination or allow selfing when self pollination occurs.

This page provides a glossary of plant morphology. Botanists and other biologists who study plant morphology use a number of different terms to classify and identify plant organs and parts that can be observed using no more than a handheld magnifying lens. This page provides help in understanding the numerous other pages describing plants by their various taxa. The accompanying page—Plant morphology—provides an overview of the science of the external form of plants. There is also an alphabetical list: Glossary of botanical terms. In contrast, this page deals with botanical terms in a systematic manner, with some illustrations, and organized by plant anatomy and function in plant physiology.

Fruit anatomy

Fruit anatomy is the plant anatomy of the internal structure of fruit.

This glossary of botanical terms is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to botany and plants in general. Terms of plant morphology are included here as well as at the more specific Glossary of plant morphology and Glossary of leaf morphology. For other related terms, see Glossary of phytopathology and List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names.


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Further reading