How to Identify Fruit Trees

Sunset in the orchard.

Fruit trees are best identified by the leaves, seeds and fruit. Many find it easiest to identify fruit trees by investigating the fruit, but some trees will bear flowers but no fruit while other only have leaves. Remember, a fruit tree does not have to be a tree, per se. Many fruits grow in small shrubs or on vines. What defines it as such is the nature of its fruit--the ripened ovary or ovaries of seed-bearing plants. And it is important to remember that fruit encompasses many edible things not commonly thought of as fruit. It is a definition that means seed-bearing ovary of a plant, so nuts are included, along with some things usually thought of as vegetables, like tomatoes and cucumbers.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson suggests, "When identifying tropical or non native fruit trees it is best to use a reference book for assistance."

When you are identifying fruit trees, break them down according to classifications. Some of the general types of fruits include berry trees, baccate, pepo, hesperidium, drupe and pome. Each of these types of tree produces a particular kind of fruit with notable characteristics.

Berry and Baccate Trees

These two categories are grouped together because of their similarities. Berry trees produce edible, fleshy layer known as a pericarp. This term refers to the fruit’s ovary wall where the seed matures. Berries may have one or several seeds per fruit. Grape, papaya, tomato, strawberry and blackberry are just a few of the examples of fruit that falls into this category.

Baccate is a term that means resembling a berry in texture or form. Fruits in this category are very similar to berry fruits except that they may or may not produce seeds and require no pollination or fertilization to spawn the fruit. Examples include banana and avocado.

Pepo Trees

This category of trees is defined by the fruit it produces with a hard rind, fleshy pulp and numerous seeds. Fruit that comes from this type of tree includes watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin, cucumber and other kinds of squash.

Hesperidium Trees

Fruit that has a thick, leathery rind with flesh divided into segments falls into this category. Members of the citrus family are hesperidia including orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime.

Drupe Trees

Trees that produce fruit with a fleshy exterior containing a single hard stone or pit that houses a seed are members of the drupe family. These include peaches, plums and apricots. This type of fruit might also have a green husk covering the flesh of the fruit such as coconut, mango, almonds and walnuts.

Pome Trees

The last category of fruit trees produces a fleshy fruit with seeds but no stone. This fruit has an edible hypanthium, the tissue that surrounds the fruit’s center. This family includes apples, pears, quince and loquat.

The easiest way to identify fruit trees is to examine the fruit they bear. If you familiarize yourself with the categories, you will be able to discern one from the other. Common fruits are relatively easy to identify simply by their shape, but using this system you can learn to point out other fruits you may not be familiar with.