In nature, many kinds of flowers turn into fruits, including flowers on trees and shrubs and those found on garden plants. While nuts are also fruits from flowers, this article will examine the fleshy fruits. Many shrubs in the wild bear edible fruit such as the deep-purple common elderberries that develop from small star-shaped flowers. Shrubs tend to produce their fruits in late summer and early fall. Many fruit trees produce their flowers early in the spring. As you enjoy these flowers, you might start to see a pattern emerge.
The apple genus includes crab apples, but its larger family descends from roses; cherries, raspberries, strawberries and pears are all members of the Rosaceae family. Their flowers tend to have five petals, a flat appearance and white coloring. Native, wild plants in the Rosaceae family can't produce blue or pure red flowers because they lack the genes to make the necessary pigments. The bright red roses you see at the florist's are the result of a mutated gene and years of crossbreeding in the lab.
The Rosaceae family further divides into four main categories, including the Amygdaloideae, or peach subfamily, and the Maloideae, or apple subfamily. Within the Amygdaloideae subfamily, the genus Prunus includes nectarines, plums and peaches. These are also known as stone fruits. The flowers of this genus produce nectar and have only one carpal, which transforms into the fruit, called a drupe. A carpal is a simple pistil or one part of a compound pistil; the pistil is the female reproductive part of a plant. The flower petals drop away soon after pollination, and each fruit bears a hard pit in the center of the flesh. The Maloideae subfamily includes apples and pears. These produce flowers with two to five carpels and fruits called pomes. Apple blossoms are white with a tinge of pink and a fragrant scent.
Brambles are members of the genus Rubus. These include raspberries and blackberries. Like strawberries, these flowers have many stamens and carpels arranged around a cone-shaped receptacle. The carpels form the drupelets or the small fleshy bumps that give the berries their marked appearance. Each contains a seed inside. Summer-bearing varieties of brambles spend their first season producing canes, then fruit the following summer. With fall-bearing varieties, first-year canes produce fruits in the fall, while older canes yield their fruit in the summer months.
Strawberries also have the five-petaled white flowers of the Rosaceae family. In strawberries, the carpels become achenes, or the seeds on the outside of the flesh of the berry. Strawberry plants come in June-bearing and day-neutral types. Day-neutral varieties flower continuously, regardless of the length of day, while June-bearing strawberries are triggered to produce flower buds by the shorter daylight of fall. These flower buds then complete their growth and may become berries during the following spring.
- Colorado State University Cooperative Extension; Fruit Fetish; J.R. Feucht; Jan. 5, 2010
- University of Illinois; Integrative Biology 335, Systematics of Plants; Rosaceae -- the Rose Family
- University of Minnesota Extension; Wild and Edible Fruits of Minnesota; Emily E. Hoover, et al.; 2007
- Cornell University: Gardening Resources -- Brambles