A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Are strawberries fruits? The seeds are on the outside, not the inside

Dear Straight Dope:

I don't want to be a smart-ace about the difference between fruits and vegetables. Rather, I would, for real, like to know the explanation in the botanical literature for strawberries. As we all know, strawberry seeds are on the OUTSIDE of the fruit. This clearly goes against the definition for fruit which states that "a fruit is the matured ovary of a flower, CONTAINING the seed." Or to put it another way, "a fleshy covering of seeds." But strawberries appear to be a seedy covering of flesh! What do the experts say about this?

I knew I wouldn't get away without being asked more about the convoluted world that is botany.

The answer here seems to be that a strawberry is not really a berry, and may not be a fruit, depending on whom you ask. (Then again, lots of things you don't think of as berries really are, for example your many-seeded berries such as cucumbers, bananas, and watermelon. These are called "pepos," at least by botanists.) The strawberry is the enlarged end of the plant stamen, although it is sometimes classified as an aggregate fruit (a fruit that develops from several ovaries of a single flower).

Unlike most berries, the strawberry plant has seeds on the skin rather than skin around the seed. Perhaps this can be accounted for by the fact that strawberries do not normally reproduce by seeds. When the fruit is developing, the plant sends out slender growths called runners, also called clones, that look like strings. They grow on the ground and send out roots in the soil. The roots produce new plants which grow and bear fruit.

For more than any human should want to know about the strawberry, check out The Strawberry Facts Page (http://www.jamm.com/strawberry/facts.html). Knock yourself out.

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