Fall Fruit Walk

Judith Fillipich, Ellie Klebonis, Diane Morgan, Fran Robinson, John Warner, Thomas “Tom” Wilson, and Dotty Workman enjoyed a walk to the Observation Tower at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) on 9/9/2018.  The wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) was full of fruit.  Some plants had ripe fruits, some plants had only unripe fruits, and other plants bore ripe & unripe fruits.

The fruit is technically known as a “berry”, meaning it has resulted from the ovary of a single flower and the ovary wall has developed into an edible fleshy part (pericarp).  The berries of wild coffee turn dark burgundy when they are ripe.  Edible does not mean palatable.

Green, yellow, orange, and not so dark reds fruits are not yet ripe.  Aboriginal people ate the fruits and reportedly made a beverage from dry roasted seeds.  Wild coffee is a member of the madder family, Rubiaceae, as is the commercial coffee plant (Coffea arabica).  Birds and other wildlife often consume these berries as they ripen.

The bright magenta fruits of beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) persist, often into late winter when migratory robins and cedar waxwings consume them all.  Mockingbirds, cardinals, and other birds eat them on occasion, but they do not seem to be a favored food.

Despite scare-lore, beautyberries are not poisonous.  Their taste is insipid, and consumption of a large number of berries will result in a treble case of dry mouth.

Sorry to say that no saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) berries — bolitas — were present on the north side of Oslo Road.  They had all been harvested, and the empty stalks had been left behind in a pile …

Hammock plants — like wild coffee and beautyberry — do well in the “usual” growing conditions of the “average” yard, though both of them tend to prefer a bit of shade and would thrive beneath a live oak, as in a “real” hammock