Flowers and fruits might seem like completely different entities. Sure the fruit we buy at the grocery store and the flowers we grow in a garden both come from plants, but in appearance the two seemingly don't really overlap. However, any fruit you enjoy was at one time a flower. In the flower to fruit transformation, plants go through a cycle of pollination, fertilization, ripening and eventual fruit maturity.
Pollination is the act of pollen being taken from the male part of the plant and transported to the female part. Pollination is generally initiated by insects such as bees, birds, bats, and, sometimes, even wind. Some fruit trees are designated as self-fertile (also sometimes called self-fruitful), which means these specific trees can cross pollinate themselves. Examples of self-fertile fruit trees include apricots, peaches, pomegranates, pears and plums. Other plant species rely on cross-pollination to occur across multiple trees within a geographical area.
Once pollen has landed on a plant's stigma (female part), fertilization can begin. At this stage, the flowers of shrubs and trees start to wither and fall from the plant. Once the egg is fertilized, it will develop into a plant seed.
In the wild, plants are exposed to harsh weather conditions, as well as an array of animals and insects that can damage fruit. Therefore, plants generate a large amount of flowers to ensure the survival of their species. The more flowers that get fertilized, the more fruit the plant can yield, giving the species longevity. Cultivated plants that provide fruit are often crossbred to give the plant desirable qualities, such as resistance to disease or insects.
Fruits taste good for a reason. When a fruit fully matures it is taken by birds, animals or humans for consumption. Once the fruit passes through the digestive tract of whatever consumed it, the seeds are secreted back into the soil, potentially giving way to a new generation of plants. This gives way to a new flower-to-fruit cycle. Uneaten fruits fall from the tree and decompose into the soil, also potentially leading to new plants.
Tomatoes and Potatoes
Though they look very different, tomatoes and potatoes are actually in the same family. Potatoes form underground and are defined as tubers. A mature potato plant will grow small flowers above ground that eventually wither and lead to small, green, tomato-like fruit. This part of the potato plant is not edible. Tomato plants bloom with bright yellow flowers. Once the flower is fertilized, small green tomatoes will bud and eventually grow into the red tomatoes that humans regularly consume.
At the beginning of the summer, apple trees are covered in blossoms. To become fruit the blossoms must be cross-pollinated, generally by bees and other insects, before being fertilized. Only some varieties of apple are self-fertile, while others require multiple trees in the area to pollinate. Once fertilized, the blossom falls off, giving way for the ovary to grow and expand into a fruit.
Pear trees don't yield fruit right away, so be patient if you've planted one in your yard. Pear trees can take four to six years to provide fruit. Pear flowers have large heads and are white in color.
Cherries bloom early in the year and are susceptible to frost damage. Cherry flowers vary from white to a vibrant red color, also exhibiting all the hues in between. Cherries mature rather quickly. There are two main variations of cherry: tart and sweet. Tart cherry trees cannot handle the winter as well as sweet cherry trees.