Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - At the stage of seed dispersal

A fruit is a flower at the stage of seed dispersal. Fruits aren't something different, just those parts of flowers that undergo a post-pollination development. Here's a particularly interesting one of Paeonia japonica, a species new to our gardens, and what a cool fruit/seed display. The follicle-like fruitlets have an unimpressive dull green-gray to brownish color, looking a bit like a short pea pod, until they dehisce, opening along a lateral suture and then how colorful is that! The fertile seeds have a dark blue fleshy covering (aril probably, or fleshy seed coat) while the undeveloped seed are soft, fleshy and red, and makes you wonder if this is a plant making to most of an otherwise wasted resource (unpollinated seeds) as an attractant and reward because they are considerably larger than at the time of pollination. If not pollinated, most ovules abort their development. The inner fruit wall is purple. This display is exactly what you would expect for bird seed dispersers. Calling all cedar waxwings!

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