En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - What are the native fruit-bearing plants in North America?

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
14 ratings

Tuesday - February 16, 2010

From: Merced, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: What are the native fruit-bearing plants in North America?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What are the native fruit-bearing plants in North America?

ANSWER:

Technically, all the native flowering plants are 'fruit-bearing' plants. I suspect, however, that this is not the answer you are looking for.  I'm guessing you want to know what native plants bear fruit that we would recognize as edible or that we might find in the produce section of a grocery store or for sale at a roadside stand.

Most, if not all, of the common fruits that we are familiar with have been in cultivation for centuries, even millennia, and have origins other than North America.  For instance:

Apples — (Malus domestica or Malus pumila) are thought to have originated in Asia (see The Story of the Apple by Barrie E. Juniper and David J. Mabberley) and you can read about its dissemination across North America by John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) in Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire.  The only native North American Malus spp. are crabapples. 

Pears — (Pyrus communis) the European pear originated from native pears of Europe and Asia and the varieties of this pear are the ones most commonly found in markets.  The Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) originated in Asia.

There are several species in the Genus Prunus that are common fruits in the markets:

Peaches and nectarines — (Prunus persica) are thought to have originated in China.  The ones you would buy in the market would be varieties of Prunus persica.

Plums — The most common edible plums found in markets in the US are (Prunus salicina) the Japanese plum and (Prunus domestica) is the European plum.  There are several species of North American native plums that are edible and often used for making jams and jellies, but they are small and generally not sold in markets. 

Cherries — (Prunus avium) sweet cherry and (Prunus cerasus) sour cherry both originated in Asia.

The native North American Prunus spp. include plums, cherries, and 'peaches', many of which are edible.

Grapes — There are both Old World grapes (e.g., Vitis vinifera, the wine grape) and New World grapes.  Here are some of the Vitis spp. native to North America.

Citrus fruits — (Citrus spp.) oranges, grapefruits, limes, lemons and (Fortunella spp.), kumquats, all originated in Asia.  There are no edible native North American citrus fruits.

Bananas — (Musa spp.) originated in southeastern Asia and perhaps northern Australia.  There are no native North American bananas.

Strawberries — (Fragaria spp.) have species native to both Europe and North America (Fragaria spp.) but the ones you buy in the market are varieties of Fragaria X ananassa, a hybrid of two North American species, Fragaria chiloensis (beach strawberry) and Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry).

You can read about other common fruits on Mark's Fruit Crops page from the University of Georgia.

Below are some common native North American fruits that can be found growing in the wild:

Vaccinium spp. — blueberries, cranberries, huckleberries, farkleberries have their origins in North America although they are now cultivated worldwide.

Rubus spp. — blackberries, dewberries, raspberries.  There are also species that have origins in the Old World.

Carya spp. — the pecans and hickory nuts originated in North America.

Juglans spp. — the walnuts.  (Juglans regia), the English walnut, however, is native to Europe.

Diospyros spp. — persimmons.  There are also persimmon species native to Africa and Asia.

There are many more native North American fruits that are eaten or have been eaten historically.  To find a bibliography of edible wild plants (many native to North America), please visit our Library & Archive page and search by subject for 'Edible Plants'.

 

 

More Trees Questions

Red maple a casualty of Hurricane Ike in Houston
November 21, 2009 - We have a 3 year old Drummond Red Maple, between the sidewalk and the street in front of our house, that fell during Hurricane Ike. We replanted it. I recently noticed that the bark is severely cracke...
view the full question and answer

Recently planted Monterey Oaks doing poorly in Jourdanton, TX.
September 02, 2013 - We planted 2 nice size Monterrey oak trees in April .they were doing good with new growth on them. But now I have been noticing the leaves are turning brown around the edges. We water about once a wee...
view the full question and answer

Shoots sprouting around base of liveoak tree
April 18, 2008 - I have a Live Oak that was planted in my yard about 15 years ago. In the last several years, small shoots have been sprouting up around the tree base, are getting more dense and spreading into the gr...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for dead oak tree after hurricane
October 01, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, It still is hard to believe but my dead Oak tree survived H.Ike! Now that I've gotten that dreaded letter from the HOA, they want me to replace it with at least a 45 gallon tree....
view the full question and answer

Tiny holes oozing sap from Austin
August 22, 2012 - My ash tree becomes loaded with butterflies on the trunk. At closer inspection, I see they are drinking sap which is coming from small holes in the trunk. Are the butterflies creating the holes? I ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center