Synsepalum dulcificum Up Close & Personal

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Plant Data:

SAPOTACEAE - Synsepalum dulcificum Daniell

Miraculous Berry, Miracle Fruit

Miracle Fruit is native to Africa.

by Bobby G. Cannon II

Some flowers are so small that it becomes difficult to see just how they are arranged and where even some of the major parts are located. Miracle fruit is one of these. I have been around these plants for decades and never taken a really close look at the flowers. Recent discussions on a rare fruit mail group I founded prompted me to take a good look at these small flowers.

How is this fruit pollinated? Some references exist that say it is ‘self pollinated’ and I found none showing insect or animal pollination. The shape of the flower, and the fact that many of them face downwards, suggests gravity as a mechanism.

Miracle Fruit Flower

The flowers are quite small and it was with some difficulty that I managed to dissect some of the parts away from the flowers. I first tried unopened flower buds but the parts seemed fused too tightly for a good examination. Older flowers, where the petals have darkened, were too dry and friable for much success. Flowers that were still at the stages where the petals are cream or white offered the best results.

Since I have seen evidence of pollen drop when working around the flowers I collected some by holding a microscope slide beneath clusters of opened flowers and giving the plant a few sharp taps. The grains are translucent white and shaped somewhat like a coffee bean.

Miracle Fruit Pollen Grains
Objective: 4 (0.15)
Synsepalum dulcificum pollen enlarged
Objective: 4 (0.15); 10 (0.25)

I wanted a look at the source of this pollen so I opened flowers and searched till I found the stamens and could see how they were attached. In this image you can see on the right that the filament is attached to the base of a petal. (The petals are somewhat spatulate in shape).

Miracle flower and partsw

Here is an image of an anther, much closer up.

Miracle Fruit Anther and Pollen
Objective: 4 (0.15)

Male parts of the flower reveled I took a look at the female parts. You may have noticed in one of the images of an entire flower that part of the pistil and the stigma grow past the opening of the flower.

Synsepalum dulcificum flower close up

It is this form of growth that suggests gravity as a major method of pollination to me. Here is a micro photograph of the exposed stigma where you can see the tip where pollen is received. You can also see that the tip is not just a rounded surface but has several crenelations.

Miracle Fruit Stigma
Objective: 4 (0.15)

This image shows the base of the style where it attaches to the ovary. I found it interesting that the ovary is quite pubescent at this point. What function this serves is unknown to me but it might serve to repel insects that would feed on the developing fruit.

Miracle Fruit Style
Objective: 4 (0.15)

I was unable to get an image of the seed developing in the ovary and will attempt to improve all images in a future update.

Producing these images, as noted, was not easy and I have concluded that I need to add some things to my micro photography set up: better dissection tools; a more secure camera to microscope mount; new stage for microscope (the one I have is missing some components); a lower power dissecting microscope.

Microscope: Swift Nine Fifty Series. Objectives, Quad Phase: 4 (0.15); 10 (0.25); 40 (0.65); Eyepiece X20.

Images captured with a Samsung S850, 8.1 Mega Pixel digital camera.

Camera joined to microscope using an armstrong method.

Your comments and advice are welcome on the RareFruit group:  rarefruit-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
or to me as list owner (membership not required) at:     rarefruit-owner@yahoogroups.com




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