Odd fruit causes a fall doubletake

Sometimes we see odd growths on trees and ask "What is that?" If we're told, "Those are seeds," we may say, "Then how come I've never seen them before?! I think this shaggy redbud has a problem, and that this may be a mutant magnolia!"

In this article we give you a look at normal attachments on:

            David maple
            Douglas fir
            Hardy mimosa/ Hardy silk tree
            Kentucky Coffee tree
            Osage orange

Those shaggy redbuds and mutant magnolias are in evidence this year but are no worry. They are just the result of a long, frost free spring when lots of pollinators could help plants set lots of fruit. Even those that you've grown for 20 years and never seen set seed.

Magnolias, for instance, are famous for blooming so early that cold often kills the flowers before seed sets, or before bees can warm up enough to gather and spread the pollen. When gardeners do see these fruits they often think they are a tumor or gall on the twig.

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Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) sometimes alarm gardeners in fall. That's when leaf drop may reveal a plethora of pods -- they were there all summer but now can't be missed, hanging like the shag on a deerskin shirtsleeve.


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Other odd fruits you may see:

David Maple (Acer davidii)



Beech nuts on beech (Fagus sylvatica, F. Grandifolia). On the ground, the fallout is called beech mast.



Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa). Sometimes called "Cigar tree" because of the fruit.

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Clematis seed pods are silvery pink stars until they ripen. Then they live up to one of the genus' common names, "old man's beard."



Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). The cones have distinctive prongs hanging from the scales.

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Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, right) fruit is produced in orchards in some countries, a valuable crop. However, it's pomum non gratum on North American street trees where it's not harvested but falls on walkways below, overripe and stinking. Often when it's ripest the untrained observer doesn't know where the fruit is coming from because it's hidden among the ginkgo's golden fall leaves.


Hardy mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) pods curl as they ripen and pop open.

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Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)



Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) nuts ("conkers") are encased in spiny covers.



Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) seed pods are there through winter and spring, often described by worried gardeners as "little claws growing on my tree."


Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) has pods and seeds so hard pliers and drills are required to open them, and to nick the seed to hasten germination -- otherwise seed sprouting may be delayed for years.

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Linden (Tilia cordata, T. americana) seed pods have pale "wings".



Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) The warty fruits look other-worldly almost anywhere. The color and size make them such stand-outs that drivers often notice them littering the grasssy verge along the road. Where they lie under a straight line of these trees they are a link to the plant's use as a pasture hedge in the 1800's before barbed wire.



Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)


Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) seed pods can be painful underfoot.


Pardon our dust; still posting more odd fruits here. And based on some of the additional inquiries we're receiving we may add a second page titled "Nope, that one's not a fruit!"