In botany, a fruit is a part of a flowering plant that derives from specific tissues of the flower, mainly one or more ovaries. Fruits are the means by which many plants disseminate seeds. Many plants bearing edible fruits, in particular, coevolved with animals in a symbiotic relationship as a means for seed dispersal and nutrition, respectively; in fact, many animals (including humans) have become dependent on fruits as a source of food. Fruits account for a substantial fraction of the world's agricultural output, and some (such as the apple and the pomegranate) have acquired extensive cultural and symbolic meanings.
The section of a fungus that produces spores is also called a fruiting body.
In common language usage, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of a plant that are sweet and edible in the raw state, such as apples, oranges, grapes, strawberries, and bananas.  On the other hand, the botanical sense includes many structures that are not commonly called "fruits", such as bean pods, corn kernels, wheat grains, tomatoes.In the culinary sense of these words, a fruit is usually any sweet-tasting plant product, especially those associated with seeds, a vegetable is any savoury or less sweet plant product, and a nut is any hard, oily, and shelled plant product.
These culinary vegetables that are botanically fruit include cucurbits (e.g., squash, pumpkin, and cucumber), tomatoes, peas, beans, corn, eggplant, and sweet pepper. In addition, some spices, such as allspice and chilies, are fruits, botanically speaking. In contrast, rhubarb is often referred to as a fruit, because it is used to make sweet desserts such as pies, though only the petiole of the rhubarb plant is edible. Edible gymnosperm seeds are often given fruit names, e.g., pine nuts, ginkgo nuts.
Botanically, a cereal grain, such as corn, wheat or rice, is also a kind of fruit, termed a caryopsis. However, the fruit wall is very thin, and is fused to the seed coat, so almost all of the edible grain is actually a seed.
Many common terms for seeds and fruit do not correspond to the botanical classifications. In botany, seeds are ripened ovules; fruits are the ripened ovaries or carpels that contain the seeds and a nut is a type of fruit and not a seed.A fruit results from maturation of one or more flowers, and the gynoecium of the flower(s) forms all or part of the fruit.
Inside the ovary/ovaries are one or more ovules where the megagametophyte contains the egg cell. After double fertilization, these ovules will become seeds. The ovules are fertilized in a process that starts with pollination, which involves the movement of pollen from the stamens to the stigma of flowers. After pollination, a tube grows from the pollen through the stigma into the ovary to the ovule and two sperm are transferred from the pollen to the megagametophyte. Within the megagametophyte one of the two sperm unites with the egg, forming a zygote, and the second sperm enters the central cell forming the endosperm mother cell, which completes the double fertilization process. Later the zygote will give rise to the embryo of the seed, and the endosperm mother cell will give rise to endosperm, a nutritive tissue used by the embryo.
As the ovules develop into seeds, the ovary begins to ripen and the ovary wall, the pericarp, may become fleshy (as in berries or drupes), or form a hard outer covering (as in nuts). In some multiseeded fruits, the extent to which the flesh develops is proportional to the number of fertilized ovules. The pericarp is often differentiated into two or three distinct layers called the exocarp (outer layer, also called epicarp), mesocarp (middle layer), and endocarp (inner layer). In some fruits, especially simple fruits derived from an inferior ovary, other parts of the flower (such as the floral tube, including the petals, sepals, and stamens), fuse with the ovary and ripen with it. In other cases, the sepals, petals and/or stamens and style of the flower fall off. When such other floral parts are a significant part of the fruit, it is called an accessory fruit. Since other parts of the flower may contribute to the structure of the fruit, it is important to study flower structure to understand how a particular fruit forms.
There are three general modes of fruit development:
Apocarpous fruits develop from a single flower having one or more separate carpels, and they are the simplest fruits.
Syncarpous fruits develop from a single gynoecium having two or more carpels fused together.
Multiple fruits form from many different flowers.
Plant scientists have grouped fruits into three main groups, simple fruits, aggregate fruits, and composite or multiple fruits. The groupings are not evolutionarily relevant, since many diverse plant taxa may be in the same group, but reflect how the flower organs are arranged and how the fruits develop.
February 26th, 2012
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