Our mystery “seeds” showcased last week were from an alligator juniper, Juniperus deppeana.
Technically these are not the seeds, but berry-like cones that contain the seeds. Notice the white, waxy coating which is a common characteristic.
Alligator junipers are named for their distinctive bark.
Once you’ve seen the bark that forms rectangular blocks, it is pretty easy to identify again. People say it looks like alligator skin.
Here’s another example. There are different subspecies throughout the range that have variations in growing shape and cone size.
It has the typical scale-like leaves of a juniper (Photograph from Wikimedia).
Alligator junipers are generally small, but in this photograph by Tom Check (from Wikimedia) you can see that older alligator junipers can be magnificent trees.
Have you ever seen an alligator juniper? Where did you see it?
Our mystery seeds from last week were the pits, the cherry pits that is. You can still see a bit of the red fruit attached to this one (the other pits were from a yellow-fleshed variety.
A number of plants in the genus Prunus are called cherries, but the two used commercially are Prunus avium, called sweet cherry, and Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry. The edible ones are thought to have come from western Asia originally, although they have been cultivated and spread throughout much of the world.
Cherries grow on small trees. The trees blossom in the spring, and produce fruit from late spring to summer, depending on the variety and where it is grown.
Although the fruit is good to eat, the pits and other parts of the plants may be toxic. The cherry plant contains varying amounts of cyanogenic glycoside, which is converted to cyanide when eaten.
What the pits are good for, however, are potentially growing new trees. This video has some suggestions how to do it:
Now I’m thinking about making a cherry cobbler or a cherry pie.
What is your favorite way to eat cherries?