Tree seeds, fruits, or nuts?

If you’re anything like us you’ve probably noticed that trees across the country are brimming with fruits, nuts, and seeds. But have you ever wondered what makes a seed a seed, or if nuts and fruit are seeds too?

It is really easy to get confused, so we’ll start with the basics.

What is a tree fruit?

A fruit is a fleshy growth on a tree or plant that contains a seed or nut. Like this apple, which contains seeds hidden in it’s flesh. Fruit are useful as the seed is often eaten by animals along with the fruit. Of course, the seed will reappear at some point, usually surrounded by it’s very own fertiliser!

So technically, seeds can be found in fruit.

How about tree nuts?

Bear with us now, because a nut can be a be a seed, but a seed isn’t necessarily a nut.

In simple terms a nut is a seed which is contained in a hard protective nutshell. This nutshell doesn’t open when the seed is ready, it’s part of a whole package. For example, this acorn contains a seed in a hard case, this case won’t open to reveal a seed.

If you find a something that looks like nut with a removable case, it’s probably a seed.

So is a tree seed just a seed?

In a nutshell (sorry), a seed is just a seed, but the seed might be contained in a nut or fruit. They’re made up of three parts; an embryo which is is the potential new plant, an endosperm which is a food source, and a seed coat to protect everything inside.

Seeds alone don’t have a lot of protection, but they can come in cases. They’re often small and light like these fluffy willow seeds which means they can travel further.

If these trees have fruit, can I eat them?

All this talk of fruit and nuts might be making you hungry. Lots of tree species have edible parts which you can forage.

Beech, hazelnuts, and walnut can all be eaten raw in small quantities. So, you can simply pick them, shell them, and eat them! Acorns, sweet chestnuts, rosehips, sloes, and pine seeds are also all edible, but they need preparing carefully beforehand.

Remember- don’t eat anything unless you are 100% sure it’s safe and that you’ve identified it correctly!

Top tip

If you harvest any nuts or berries from trees, make sure to only take a really small percentage of them from any given tree, so that you leave plenty for the wildlife that rely on them as a winter food source.

Growing trees from seeds and nuts

You can grow your own trees from the seeds and nuts that you collect. All native tree species that provide amazing habitat for our native wildlife, as well as providing wider benefits for rivers, the environment and people.

As part of our HEAL project we collect the seeds of native plants from ancient woodlands. These seeds are them sown in our community tree nurseries where the saplings will be looked after by our fantastic volunteers until they are big enough to be planted out into new woodlands. This means we can grow thousands of trees with a super low environmental impact.

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