Field of Science

Ludicrous fruit display

The Phactor noticed this ludicrously colorful fruit display this morning on the tree outside his building. What a wonderful presentation this fruit display makes! Looks like something from a Georgia O'Keefe painting. Do you recognize this common genus in fruit?

This fruit is from the bigleafed magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). The pendent, cone-like fruit is a lurid pink and consists of fruitlets, one from each pistil, in the form of a one or two-seeded follicle (like a milkweed pod). When the fruitlet splits open the seeds dangle forth on a thread and are covered by a fleshy pink-orange aril, a reward for the bird dispersers. The actual seed is black and has a hard shiny seed coat. This time of year a flock of grosbeaks or cedar waxwings will find this tree and an hour later every single seed will be gone.

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