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David Beaulieu

Obscure and Not-So-Obscure Facts About Roses

By January 21, 2013

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In a recent post I asked, "What Exactly Is an Herb?" in which I attempted to define "herb" -- on a small scale, anyhow. My blogger friend, Scotty was kind enough to get into the categorizing spirit with me. In a comment that he posted, he raised the issue of how to categorize the strawberry: "If fruit have seeds on the inside, what is a strawberry?" He caught my interest with his query.

picture of pink roseSo I looked it up in Merriam-Webster, reporting that, according to these famous dictionary folks, the strawberry is not actually a single fruit. Instead, it is "a greatly enlarged stem end that contains many partially embedded true fruits (achenes), popularly called seeds."

Talk about an obscure fact -- and a rather esoteric word: achene. Not exactly a term we hear in everyday English. But I came across the word again recently while researching for an article on roses.

In elaborating on the subject of rose hips on the American Rose Society (ARS) website, Malcom M. Manners, after noting that hips are unique to roses, remarks that they are "a sort of inside-out strawberry.... Inside are the hard, angular objects that most of us refer to as 'seeds,' but which are actually small fruits (achenes), each of which contains a single seed."

I did not include this tidbit of knowledge in my article on facts about roses, because it seemed to me a bit too obscure for the general public. True, there's fodder in my article for some good trivia questions, but, for the most part, the facts I present are of such a nature that you could comfortably discuss them with a gardening friend -- without running the risk of sounding like a total plant geek.

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Photo ©2007 David Beaulieu, Landscaping Guide (licensed to About, Inc.)

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