From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Arnold L. Stark, Seed Chair, Tampa Bay Chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International, Inc.
The Value of Planting Fruit Seeds
Bud sports arise from established trees, when a branch appears
bearing fruit (or other characteristics, e.g., leaf size, shape or
colour, thornlessness) different from the remainder of the tree. This
occurs when a bud meristem cell undergoes a genetic mutation which is
passed on to all of its descendent cells which, in turn, produce the
new branch. If these new characteristics are deemed superior to the old
ones, then the aberrant branch is used to propagate new plants
Bud sports occur in all types of fruiting trees,
but are more commonly encountered in some than in others. A good
example of trees which frequently produce bud sports is citrus. Thus,
on an orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit tree of standard variety, a
limb may appear which has variegated leaves, thornless limbs, cold
resistance or fruit which is larger, sweeter, acidless, seedless or
different in colour. The naval orange was discovered as a bud sport on
a seeded orange tree, and the car car (red navel) was a bud sport of a
However, most new fruit varieties are produced
by growing seedlings, and selecting those of the best quality.
Sometimes these seedlings are produced through a concerted effort of
breeding varieties together and then selecting those having the most
desirable characteristics. The Arkin carambola was developed in this
way. A breeding effort may even involve the hybridization of two or
more different species. Probably the best examples are again found in
citrus: thus we have many varieties of tangelos (=tangerine x
grapefruit), tangors (=tangerine x orange), limequats (=lime x
kumquat), citrangequat (=citron x orange x kumquat), to name a few.
Another example is the atemoya (=sugar apple x cherimoya), which many
favour as the best of the annonas.
When species are successfully
hybridized, the offspring may show a huge diversity of characteristics
ranging from all of those of one parent, through various combinations
of both parents, to all of those of the other parent. Thus, a cross of
tangerine and grapefruit has produces tangelos as different as very
different from what is desired. (A college biology professor relayed a
story to me of an attempt by a Russian geneticist to produce the
perfect food crop in which the entire plant is edible. He crossed a
cabbage with a potato, expecting to get a plant which was cabbage above
ground and potato below ground. He did succeed in his cross, but the
offspring he obtained was potato above ground and cabbage below ground!
As this was anecdotal rather than referenced, I don't know if the story
was based in fact, but it illustrates my point well.)
excellent fruit varieties have been produced through the chance
production of seedlings which may appear under or near an established
tree from rotting fruit, or after fruit consumption by an animal,
including humans. A little old lady in Australia through an apple core
in her yard and a few seedlings grew there. One of those seedlings
produced the first Granny Smith apple!
Herein lies the main message I wish to convey to you. Whenever you are enjoying a bounty of fresh exotic fruit,
DON'T JUST TOSS THE SEED(S) IN THE TRASH: INSTEAD, PLANT THEM!
a place in your yard for growing seedling trees. Share the extra
seedlings with your friends and neighbours. Give them to other RFCI
members. You may produce the next "Arkin Carambola" or "Granny Smith
In our yard, we have an orange tree which produces
large, juicy, sweet oranges which are nearly seedless. We use the fruit
to make gallons of delicious, beautifully-coloured juice as good as
that of Valencia oranges. And the fruit ripens nearly two months sooner
than our Valencias do. This tree grew from a seedling I found growing
next to a campsite in the woods about 20 years ago.
fruit from seedlings takes a good deal of patience. A citrus seedling
may take 10 years or more to bear fruit. However, there are exotic
fruits, which don't take anywhere near that length of time. Cashews
often flower within a year, papayas a little longer. Most of the
Eugenia species, passion fruits and annonas, among others, take only
three to four years to bear fruit. The rewards can be well worth your
Growing seedling trees doesn't require as much room as
you would need for the varieties you favour. You can grow them in
relatively crowded conditions. Since many won't meet your expectations
they would only be grown until they begin fruiting, and then can be
removed, while those you wish to keep growing and producing can be
moved to a permanent location.
There is something extremely
satisfying about eating a fruit picked from a tree you have nurtured
since germination. Besides, wouldn't it be great if everyone favoured a
fruit variety named after you?