Field of Science

Goofy botanical questions

Probably because the Phactor does such a good job of it, all of the goofy, off-the-wall botanical questions that one way or another arrive at our university get routed to my office.  So you never know what to expect.  Today's was typical enough.  "With this early spring has the ginkgo flowered yet?"  No.  It has not flowered and it never will because it's a gymnosperm and it does not have flowers.  However, based on some specimens collected for a botany lab the other day, pollination has taken place.  "If it doesn't have flowers, then where do the smelly fruits come from."  Well, these are seeds, and the outer seed coat is fleshy and the inner seed coat is a stony shell protecting the female and her embryo within, and it's the fleshy seed coat that smells pretty badly, but no one understands the function of the smell.  Like a lot of plants, Ginkgo seeds ripen and disperse in the fall. 

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