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A Myriad Ways to Sprout

How can the same types of plants and fruits have variants that are so different?

Plants are fascinating organisms that can display an incredible range of physical characteristics. From the color and texture of their leaves to the size and shape of their fruit, the appearance of plants can vary greatly. But what causes these differences?

One of the primary factors that contribute to differences in plant appearance is genetics. Within the same species, there can be genetic variation that leads to differences in physical characteristics, such as color, shape, size, and, in the case of fruits, taste.

Environmental factors also have a significant impact on the appearance of plants and fruits. Temperature, humidity, soil type, light exposure, and water availability are all factors that can influence the growth and development of plants. Myriad combinations of these environmental factors can cause plants to grow differently, resulting in differences in appearance.

Stages of growth are another factor that affects plant and fruit appearance. As plants grow and mature, their appearance can change dramatically. A young plant may have a different leaf shape or color than a mature plant of the same species. Additionally, the flowering and fruiting stages of a plant can greatly affect its appearance.

Adaptation to specific climates or growing conditions is another factor that can significantly impact plant appearance. Plants can adapt to their environment to survive and thrive. These adaptations can result in significant differences in the appearance of plants of the same species that are adapted to different environments.

Many of these variations are deliberate, purposely designed by man, as in the case of cultivars. Cultivars (short for "cultivated varieties”) are plants that have been selectively bred by humans for specific desirable traits, such as size, color, yield, disease resistance, and other characteristics. Cultivars are typically developed through controlled breeding programs that select plants with desirable traits and cross them to create new plants with those same desirable traits.

Cultivars can be found in a wide range of plant species, including fruits, vegetables, flowers, and trees. They can differ significantly from their wild counterparts in their physical appearance, growth habits, and other traits. For example, a cultivar of tomato may have a larger fruit size, a more uniform shape, and a sweeter taste than the wild tomato species.

This technique is particularly used in agriculture and horticulture to improve crop yields, disease resistance, and other important characteristics. They can also be used in landscaping and gardening to create plants with specific aesthetic qualities or growth habits. It’s more or less “plant tech” where science is applied to help plant breeders and growers produce plants and fruits that meet specific needs or preferences.

Check out these rare varieties of cultivated plants and fruits:

Glass Gem Corn - a colorful variety of corn with kernels that resemble stained glass

Purple Cauliflower - a cauliflower with purple florets that is high in antioxidants

Cotton Candy Grape - a grape variety that tastes like cotton candy

Ghost Pepper - a hot pepper that is one of the hottest in the world

Black Tomatoes - a tomato variety with a unique smoky flavor

Buddha's Hand - a citrus fruit with a finger-like shape and fragrant aroma

Salsify - a root vegetable with a flavor similar to oysters

Durian - a fruit with a distinctive, strong odor and creamy texture

Blue Java Banana - a banana variety with a flavor reminiscent of vanilla ice cream.

So, if in the future, you see black oranges in the market, or spiky apples, at least you’ll know basically the how, even if not quite the why.



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