Have you ever loved something so much, you just have to figure out exactly how it works?
We here at FruitStand have.
We love everything there is to love about fruit – including the strange and wonderful process that brings it into existence. That’s why we’ve rolled up our sleeves, thrown on our specs (it makes us feel smarter), and stuck our noses deep into science books to figure out that whole “seed” part of “from seed to table.”
And since what we found out was so cool, we decided to share with all those other fruit lovers out there.
That brings us to the mysterious caryopsis.
Like other types of fruit-growing groups we’ve covered here (including Schizocarps and Siliques), caryopsis describes a preferred reproductive method of some of our favorite fruits, flowers and plants.
But before we get into how that process works – or the types of foods these lovely seeds bring us – it might be helpful to go over a few vocabulary words, just in case you don’t have a degree in botany (or if you do but just, you know, need a refresher).
Caryopsis is a type of simple, dry fruit – a designation that’s, in and of itself, the end-result of an entire scientific categorizing system. And these types of fruits are additionally known for their monocarpellates and indehiscent characteristics.
So what does that mean? Well, we’re glad you asked.
A monocarpellate refers to a singular carpel. In botany, carpels are plant parts that encompass every part of the plant-based female reproductive system. This usually includes everything from ovaries to stigmas and usually styles. (How all those parts work to bring about the miracle of life is another article all together!)
And when a plant is indehiscent, that means that these carpels – the cases that contain these suites of reproductive material, often known as seeds – stay closed once a plant has reached maturity. (Other types of plants, called dehiscents, prefer to put it all out there, by splitting open their seed pods upon maturity, as a method of pollination.)
There are many types of monocarpellate indehiscent plants out there, however. So what, exactly, makes a caryopsis special?
Types of caryopsis fruits have an additional characteristic that makes them stand out from the pack – and it’s pretty cool!
Inside a caryopsis, the carpels are fused to the seed coat itself.
So what does that mean?
The fruit and the seed, in this case, are one in the same. You plant the same part that you eat. Or eat the same part that you plant.
Most of the time, most gardeners take painstaking care separating seed from fruit, in order to bring the next generation to life. But in the case of caryopses, the process is much more simplified and streamlined – although, sometimes, some farmers do go through the process of milling these seeds/plants, but this process takes much more time, money and machinery.
Once these babies are in the ground, they already have everything they need to get growing. The DNA inside a caryopsis will trigger the process, with specific parts of its insides starting to push out, and receiving all the additional help it needs from other genetic material inside the seed.
And what blossoms out of this miracle maker is pretty delicious.
In fact, many types of caryopses are better known as grains, for this exact reason. And that’s how you may better recognize some of the more famous types of caryopsis plants.
The fruits include many popular types of grains, including all types of wheat, rice and corn. (You may also recognize many caryopsis fruits by the outer husks they develop to adapt to the world.)
So basically, any time you’re in the cereal aisle, you can thank a caryopsis for the beautiful bounty of options you have. And you can toast the very special kind of seed that brings us toast!