Autumn is a great time to see fruits and seeds, and Kew's Arboretum has a fantastic array from temperate areas around the world. Some are amazingly colourful and they come in all shapes and sizes too.
At this time of year, many of our summer flowers develop into an array of fruits and seeds, and some are as attractive (if not more so) than the flowers that came before them. The definition of a seed is complex, but basically seeds are produced by the plant to ensure their survival in the next generation.
Not all plants produce seed though, as some plants are either male or female, and it is only the females that produce fruit and seeds. Our native holly is an example of this. Then there are other plants, like tulip trees (Liriodendron sp), which need to be semi-mature before they will flower and produce seed.
I am always amazed when I look at seeds, particularly those produced by trees which, from a relatively small and often vividly coloured seed, have the potential to grow into giants. An example of this is our very own mighty oak tree, which can grow up to 20 metres tall from a seed not much bigger than a twenty pence piece (although this does take around a thousand years).
Fruits and seeds at Kew Gardens
Here are a selection of fruits and seeds which have caught my eye around the Gardens to whet your appetite this week.
Porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)
These amazingly coloured small fruits of porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) offer a really showy end to the vine season.
European or common spindle (Euonymus europaeus)
These brightly coloured fruits, although enticing, should not be eaten as they are poisonous. There are many other species of Euonymus with different coloured fruits that are equally attractive.
The golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)
The golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) is a really showy autumn plant. With its golden flowers (from which it gets its common name), this tree goes on to produce wonderful bladder-like seed pods, which turn dark red before they open. This transition is followed by a burst of autumn colour in the foliage.
Osage orange fruits (Maclura pomifera)
The fruits of Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) have a very distinctive citrus fragrance. The flowers of this tree are small and not very showy, but it also produces large brain like fruit. Osage orange is in the same family as the mulberry and seeds from this tree are edible. Its fruits are often found pulled apart by squirrels.
Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo)
The Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) has fruits that are edible but neither look like or taste like strawberries. The Latin name unedo means "I only eat one", and this is supposed to be because most people find the taste rather bland. I must say that I have collected this seed in Spain and I find the fruits rather tasty! They are also attractive, as the tree produces two coloured fruits, ripe and unripe and flowers all at the same time.
"Dead man's fingers" (Decaisnea fargesii)
The wonderful blue pea-like pods of Decaisnea fargesii from China, nicknamed "dead man's fingers", is not actually in the pea family, but rather the chocolate vine family. This family also includes Akebia quintata, with its chocolate scented flowers and colourful seed pods.
Indian bean tree (Catalpa bignonioides)
The Indian bean tree (Catalpa bignonioides) is from the USA and has the most wonderful large orchid-like flowers, which are produced in June and July. The flowers turn into long thin pods of around 40 cm, but can grow up to almost twice this length. These long thin pods remain hanging on the tree all winter before falling to the ground.
Bhutan pine (Pinus wallichiana) becoming coated in resin
The Bhutan pine (Pinus wallichiana) is a really elegant looking tree which produces long clusters of banana shaped cones, up to 25 cm long.
And just because it's autumn, here's a squirrel with eyes bigger then his belly!
A Squirrel enjoying autumn in the Gardens at Kew
- Anthony -
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