Maya Nut: not just an ordinary fruit (or nut)

Brosimum alicastrum  fruit
A ripe Maya Nut fruit, the sweet fleshy green outer layer of the fruit is consumed by bats, birds and monkeys leaving the intact seed to fall to the forest floor.

Our recent findings have lead us to develop a protocol which enables the storage of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) seed for several months. As part of this we asked Wolfgang Stuppy from the Millennium Seed Bank to have a look at the anatomy of the fruit and seed to see whether we could get any insights into why it behaves as it does. As part of this work he came across some very interesting facts about the fruit and seed.

DSC_0435
Maya nut fruit showing the nutritious seed. The fruit is in fact a very congested and fused cluster of flower stalks and the small round discs that you can see are the remains of these stalks.

In Maya Nuts the fleshy  fruit is actually modified stalks and nothing to do with the flower or ovary as would be the case for the vast majority of fruits. The seed itself is the product of a lone female flower which sits nestled in a cluster of fused stalks (see below) of aborted sister flowers. The cluster itself has had all of its branches shortened to nothing but a small bract which you can see as bright round discs  on the surface.

brosimum flower 2_edited
What look like a strange flower is in fact a very congested and fused cluster of flower stalks with one small flower hidden within. The small round discs that you can see are the remains of these stalks. You can see the receptive female part, called the stigma, emerging to the left-hand side of the picture.

The male flowers takes a similar form to the female flowers. Maya Nut trees are usually male or female. That is they produce only male or female flowers. Intriguingly individual trees will frequently change sex during the course of their development.

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