Is a pumpkin a fruit? Is a tomato a berry? If you’re confused about what a fruit actually is and what the different types of fruit are, you’re not alone! Fruit types classification schemes differ depending on if you’re eating and cooking, or if you’re categorizing fruits from a biological perspective! In this post, we’ll go over the different types of fruits as defined by botanists, and present a fruit types learning activity!
- Simple fruits:
- Aggregate Fruits
- Multiple Fruits
A simple fruit forms from a single flower with a single ovary.
Simple Fleshy Fruits:
Berries and Modified Berries
Berries have fleshy pericarps and one or more seeds. Hesperidia (citrus fruits) are modified berries with leathery exocarps (outermost part of the pericarp), that form the citrus peel. Pepos (squash, melons, and gourds) are modified berries with very thick, hardened exocarps.
Examples of berries: tomato, grape, banana
Examples of hesperidia: Lemon, lime, orange
Examples of pepos: Cantaloupe, pumpkin, cucumber
Pomes are simple fleshy fruits and are also “accessory fruits”, meaning the fleshy edible part of the pome is something other than its pericarp. Pomes have papery pericarps (think of an apple’s unpalatable core), and their flesh is an accessory fruit part called a hypanthium.
Examples of pomes: Apple, pear
Drupes are simple fleshy fruits with hardened endocarps (the endocarp is the innermost layer of the pericarp). We call this hardened endocarp a “pit”. Drupes typically have a single seed inside of their pit.
Examples of drupes: cherry, plum, peach
Simple Dry Fruits:
Dehiscent Dry Fruits
The defining characteristic of all dehiscent dry fruits is that they break open to disperse their seeds when they become ripe. Many dehiscent dry fruits are examples of what you may think of as “seed pods”. They are fruits with dry pericarps. This group includes follicles, legumes, and capsules. Follicles split open along one side. Legumes split into two halves. Capsules are a diverse group with a variety of opening methods.
Examples of follicles: milkweed, magnolia
Examples of legumes: beans, peas, peanuts
Examples of capsules: poppy, lily, columbine
Indehiscent Dry Fruits
Unlike dehiscent dry fruits, indehiscent dry fruits do not break open when ripe. Dehiscent dry fruits have dry and sometimes hardened pericarps. This group includes achenes, nuts, grains, and schizocarps.
Examples of achenes: dandelion, sunflower
Examples of nuts: walnut, pecans, acorns
Examples of grains: wheat, corn, grasses
Examples of schizocarps: celery, carrot, fennel
An aggregate fruit forms from a single flower with multiple ovaries. Since aggregates develop multiple pericarps from multiple ovaries, they are like a cluster of many fruits. Because of this, you can have aggregates of different simple fruit types. For example, a blackberry is an aggregate of a drupe and the tiny individual fruits that form the blackberry are called “drupelets”. A strawberry is an aggregate of an achene. A strawberry is also an accessory fruit because the fleshy portion of the strawberry is an enlarged receptacle while the individual fruits’ pericarps are tiny, dry parts on the outside of the strawberry. Many aggregate fruits have what look like little hairs on their outsides – these hairs are actually styles attached to each ovary.
Examples of aggregate fruits: Blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
A multiple fruit forms from a cluster of multiple flowers. They are made of any individual fruits that fuse together. The individual fruits that form the multiple fruit can belong to other simple fruit types. For example, a pineapple is made up of many fused berries.
Examples of multiple fruits: Pineapple, breadfruit, and figs.
Fruit Classification Review Activity
Purpose: the purpose of this activity is to practice identifying the characteristics of different fruit types.
- Fleshy and dry fruit types cards:
Set up: Introduce the students to the different fruit types and some characteristics of each before starting this activity, if you haven’t already. Cut out the 14 Fruit Types cards (see above). For classroom groups larger than 14 students, print cards multiple times so that there is at least one card per student.
Each student is to be given one card, and instructed not to look at the card. Students hold their cards to their foreheads. Have students move around the classroom and ask other students yes/no questions to determine the fruit type that they have.
“Does this fruit type have a pit?”
“Is my fruit a fleshy fruit?”
“Does my fruit split open when it is ripe?”
“Would a cherry be an example of my fruit type?”
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Further Reading (external sites)
- A. Grant (2021). Understanding Different Fruit Types. Gardening Know How. Available: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/fegen/different-fruit-types.htm
- McGill University (2007). Fruit. Available: https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/f/Fruit.htm
- Ohio Plants (2021). Many-seeded Dehiscent Dry Fruits. Available: https://ohioplants.org/fruits-capsule/
- P.V. Sengbusch (n.d.). Fruits and Seeds. Michigan State University. Available: https://s10.lite.msu.edu/res/msu/botonl/b_online/e02/02f.htm
- USDA Forest Service (n.d.). Nuts. Available: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/food/nuts.shtml
- W.P. Armstrong (n.d.). Identification of Major Fruit types. Palomar College. Available: https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/fruitid1.htm