Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Evidence in the Case of the Mystery Fruit Tree

Daniel's Mystery Fruit Tree in Full Bloom, March 2011.
Mystery fruit from my backyard, June 2011.
Regular readers of this blog know that we've been engaged in a botanical mystery for the past year.  My friend Daniel has a tree with a fruit of unknown origin-- a fruit we've been calling The Mystery Fruit.  Several months after discussing Daniel's Mystery Fruit Tree, we discovered that I had my own Mystery Fruit Tree in my backyard and we wondered if it was the same kind of tree.  After careful examination of photographs of the fruit and pits from both trees, I can safely say that they are not the same kind of tree.  The pits from Daniel's tree have a much rougher surface and the fruit from his tree is larger and has a thicker and slightly furrier skin.  The trees also seem to produce fruit at different times of year.  My tree fruited in June.  Daniel's tree is producing fruit now.
Fruit from Daniel's Mystery Fruit Tree, November 2010.

Of course, all of this information just makes us more excited to solve both mysteries and we're hoping readers-- especially our friend Bharati-- can help.  At the end of this missive, I am reprinting the letter that Daniel wrote to Bharati via this blog updating her (and the rest of us) on the fruit situation this season.  If anyone has input or research suggestions for solving our botanical mysteries, we'd love to hear from you.
Mystery Fruit leaves and pits, October 2011.  Photo courtesy Daniel Marlos 2011.

Dear Susan,

Where we last left this story last season, your friend Bharati wanted to see a cross section of what I have been calling a Sliva or a Mystery Fruit.  Today was the first opportunity I had to get a photo in quite some time, and to my dismay, the tree was stripped of fruit.  There were not as many drupes this year and they were not yet ready when I checked two weeks ago.  While I am unable to provide Bharati with a cross section of the fruit, I can provide her with a photo of a pile of pits.  The squirrels sit on this stump and eat the fruits.  If you recall, that was the catalyst for my baking experiments last year.  There were a few pits on the stump and I gathered the others from around the stump.  There is a small branch with leaves from the tree included in the photo.  They appear more like peach pits than plum pits.

Daniel Marlos


  1. They sure do look more like peach pits! I have a mystery fruit tree in our yard too...I don't think it's really fruit, and the squirrels do love it! I should have taken a picture for you...I thought of you when I tried to cut the "fruit" open and decide what it may be. I let them go too far so that they were almost overripe. I cut it open...it has a pit...and I thought it smelled somewhat citrusy, but then I thought of a chemical smell much like wood stain (as I remember). Maybe next year, I'll get a picture and send it to you. Ours won't be fruiting again for another 10 months or so! And the leaves are all down now, but they were much larger than the ones Daniel pictured!

  2. Shirley- Be sure to send in the photo when your tree fruits. I've become curious about all kinds of fruit these days. It seems like there are a lot more strange hybrids in the world than I ever realized.

  3. from Tony: My first guess was a plum -- there's so many kinds, then pluot or apri-plum or, or... See, without inspecting the tree for graft scars, without knowing the rootstock, size of the tree, size of the fruit, etc. knowing precisely which fruit this is is tricky. And then, if the tree was grown from the pit of a home-made hybrid, other genetic factors contribute to the fruit.
    My suggestion, if the fruit is super yummy, is to give the fruit it's own special name and then wait until some know-it-all with DNA proof comes along to tell her it's something different. That's the backstory to most of the plants we grow -- they were named by nurserymen.

  4. @Tony- I love the idea of giving the fruit it's own name. Who cares if anyone else knows what it is. My parents save seeds from a tomato they grow every year that they call the "Mennonite tomato" because my uncle originally got it from a Mennonite friend.