Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: Freakish fruit

I was back at work on my street-side succulent bed on Monday.  In the process, I gave the Xylosma congestum shrubs we added back in May 2016 to extend the existing hedge a light trim and made a surprising discovery: berries I'd never seen before on these shrubs.

There are a LOT of these shrubs here.  They make up hedges that run not only along the front of our property but also one side and the entire stretch of the backyard border so I found it peculiar that I'd never seen the berries before.

These photos, taken last February show the Xylosma hedge that runs in front of the house along the street.  The shrubs shown in the photo on the right behind the succulents are those we added in 2016.  They haven't yet grown large enough to merge with the original shrubs.
    
I saw flowers on the shrubs for the first time last November.  Most online sources I checked don't even mention that they flower.  One source simply stated that flowers are rare.  The fact that we got so much rain in winter through spring last year may have been a factor in producing both the flowers and the berries.

Oddly, I found only the one shrub that had berries.  The hedges are sheared 3 to 4 times a year but the 3 shrubs added in 2016 are still playing catch-up so they're rarely touched, which may explain why I didn't find the berries anywhere else.  I think they're pretty and I may find a way to use them in a floral arrangement before they're gone.

While the berries on the Xylosma are attractive, I can't make that claim with respect to the mutant lemons I discovered on the lemon tree at the bottom of our back slope.

I consulted online sources once again and found that the fruit has probably been affected by bud mites.  In most circumstances, predatory mites keep these in check but water stress and dust on trees can tip the balance.  Since my run-ins with fire ants last year, I've seriously neglected the hand-watering I usually do on the back slope so I accept responsibility for this problem.

Luckily, only a small portion of the fruit has been affected thus far.  The sources I consulted also indicate that that the taste and quality of the fruit isn't impaired by the mites.

Both discoveries provided useful information.  I can use stems of the Xylosma to provide interest in flower arrangements but I also need to be more mindful about watching out for seedlings around any shrubs that produce berries.  The mutant fruit on the lemon tree is a reminder to keep the tree well watered during periods of drought and hose down the foliage periodically to keep it clean.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

16 comments:

  1. Curious how only one shrub managed to produce berries. And that lemon looks so ornamental!

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    1. That was the oddest aspect about the berry mystery. At first I wondered if there were male and female Xylosma but apparently that isn't the case. I think the fact that the 3 newest shrubs hadn't been sheared was a factor but I can't explain why only one of those 3 had berries.

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  2. I suppose if the hedges get sheered 3-4 a year, there isn't an opportunity for them to flower, and I also wonder if there is a male and female Xylosma congestum.
    Not taking into account the stress your lemon tree was under, the fruit is quite hilarious.

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    1. I looked into whether there are male and female Xylosma and couldn't find any references suggesting that was the case, although admittedly I didn't do a deep dive.

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  3. Hello Kris,

    There is always something new to learn in gardening.And, always something to stop the perfect garden ever being achieved. We suppose that this is Nature's way of making us all keep on trying for perfection.

    The oddly shaped lemons could be the subject of a blog caption competition. However, perhaps some of the competition entries might have to be censored!!

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    1. The lemon on the right does look as though it squeezed into pants that are too tight ;)

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  4. At first I thought the citrus was a Buddha's Hand, close!

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    1. I felt there was a resemblance to Buddha's hand citrus too, Eliza. I expect there's a common parent between Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis and the common Meyer's lemon somewhere back in time.

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  5. That was.an interesting looking lemon. What with all the wild fire dust and smoke you can't take full credit for those alien lemons.

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    1. You're right, Lisa - the smoke and ash from the nearby fires were probably factors. The plants on the back slope too a beating last year, despite our higher-than-average rainfall, as I did very little supplemental watering. For the last 2 years, in response to heatwaves, the lemon tree has dropped most of its ripe fruit within a couple of weeks, which is a clear sign of stress.

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  6. That's a great discovery! I experienced something similar this year when I discovered that Eleagnus not only flower, but they are wonderfully fragrant! Who knew...? Such interesting results of environmental stressors on your lemons. Like Eliza, I first thought it was a Buddha's Hand. Glad they still taste good!

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    1. Buddha's hand has a more complex structure but I think my fruit shows how it might have evolved. With our rainfall total so low this winter, I've been making more of an effort to hand-water the tree. Right now, we're on target for the lowest rainfall I've ever seen.

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  7. The mutant fruit is kind cool, it would be interesting to see what the insides are like... (hint)

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    1. I've given some of the mutant fruit to my husband for use in cooking but thus far he's elected to use the normal looking specimens ;)

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  8. We have an ugly vegetable campaign here to encourage people to use the malformed produce. You could start an ugly fruit one there. I think the lemons look pretty cool.

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    1. I've left lemons for neighbors to take several times. They usually go fast. Maybe I'll leave both normal and mutant specimens next time and see whether the mutants have appeal.

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