What are Drupes?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Drupes are fruits with four major parts: a thin skin, a fleshy body, a hard stone, and an inner seed. Many are also edible, with people eating the various parts, depending on which kind it is. A surprising number of foods are considered drupes, ranging from almonds to peaches. Most cultures eat several different varieties, some of which play a major culinary role. They can generally be farmed or cultivated, although it is also possible to collect wild versions.

Almonds, a type of drupe, on a tree.
Almonds, a type of drupe, on a tree.

Working from the outside in, the first layer of a drupe is a thin skin or exocarp that protects it from the elements. Next comes the mesocarp, a thick layer of fleshy material that is often made juicy and sweet to appeal to animals, so that animals will eat the fruit and then spread the seeds in their feces. Next comes the stone or endocarp, which is extremely hard to protect the delicate seed inside. When the seed lands in good growing conditions, it will sprout, cracking the endocarp.

Peaches are drupes.
Peaches are drupes.

Stone fruits, such as plums, cherries, dates, mangoes, and apricots, are all part of this classification. In this case, people eat both the skin and the sweet flesh inside, but discard the bitter and inedible pit and seed. In other cases, people eat only the seed, in the form of foods like walnuts and almonds, which are usually culinarily classified as nuts because of their fleshy texture and high fat content.

Walnuts are often considered to be nut-like drupes.
Walnuts are often considered to be nut-like drupes.

Some people might be surprised to learn that some berries are also drupes. Raspberries and blackberries, for example, are made up of a cluster of tiny drupelets grouped around a central stem. People may have noticed that, when they get a raspberry seed stuck in their teeth, it is surprisingly hard, and it yields a small white kernel when cracked.

Rainier cherries are drupes.
Rainier cherries are drupes.

To be technical, fruits are also ovaries. An ovary is a female reproductive part that holds eggs that are capable of being fertilized. In plants, these eggs are called ovules, and when they are pollinated, they develop into fruits. Like many other fruits, drupes consist of the ovary and the ripened flesh around it, which protects the seeds and promotes dispersal. Obviously, plants are capable of generating new ovaries, unlike mammals.

Apricots are drupes.
Apricots are drupes.
Berries like blackberries and mulberries are composed of a cluster of small drupelets around a central stem.
Berries like blackberries and mulberries are composed of a cluster of small drupelets around a central stem.
Plums are drupes.
Plums are drupes.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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