Druping Under the Weight of Botanical Knowledge

A recent cartoon by the talented JL Westover, plus the general holiday merriment, has inspired me to reblog this post from December, 2012. Hope you like it.


I’m very glad I recently took an evening class in botany. For one thing, I now know what a drupe is.

A large berry. A large berry.

You know when you are reading about some plant, say a serviceberry (Amelanchier), and the text says that the fruit is a small drupe? I no longer think that “drupe” is some random typo that sounds vaguely insulting. Now I know that serviceberries have drupes, not berries, and so should properly be called servicedrupes. This is an even worse name than serviceberry, but more accurate botanically, which is what is really important.

Drupes, you see, have a single seed. Berries have multiple seeds. Tomatoes are berries. Really. So are blueberries. To botanists, tomatoes and blueberries are practically indistinguishable, which is why I don’t visit when they are making spaghetti. (Tomatoes are berries botanically, but are vegetables legally as determined by the US Supreme Court…

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24 Comments on “Druping Under the Weight of Botanical Knowledge”

  1. It is very satisfactory knowing the difference between a berry and a drupe, but how rarely one gets a chance to air one’ s hard won knowledge. Drupes so rarely come up in general conversation. It’ s all very sad. I do sometimes try and introduce the subject, but I am always met with blank, uninterested looks.

  2. Have you even met a botanist? I’ve come to believe that they make this stuff up, change names constantly, and use the Latin terms to thwart the rest of us. They want to keep all the cool plant stuff to themselves. 🙂 Fun post–thanks for reposting it.

  3. This was an interesting post to read. I’ve heard about many such confusions in Botany. Some things are flowers but others might look like flowers but are not flowers and so on…and people call my field, Math, a confusing one :-P!!!

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