Pericarp: The Fruit Wall That Protects the Seed


    Pericarp: The Fruit Wall That Protects the Seed

    Pericarp is a term that refers to the part of the fruit that develops from the ovary wall after fertilization and surrounds the seed. It is composed of three layers: the epicarp, the mesocarp, and the endocarp. The pericarp can be fleshy or dry, depending on the type of fruit. The pericarp has various functions, such as protecting the seed, attracting animals for seed dispersal, and providing nutrients for the seedling.

    The Three Layers of Pericarp

    • Epicarp: This is the outermost layer of the pericarp, which forms the skin or peel of the fruit. It is usually thin and tough, and may have stomata and hairs. In citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, the epicarp is called the flavedo and has a colorful appearance.
    • Mesocarp: This is the middle layer of the pericarp, which is usually fleshy or dry. It forms the edible part of many fruits, such as peaches and tomatoes. In citrus fruits, the mesocarp is called the albedo or pith, and is white and spongy. The mesocarp may also contain vascular bundles, fibers, oil glands, or other structures.
    • Endocarp: This is the innermost layer of the pericarp, which directly encloses the seed. It can be hard and stony, such as in cherries and plums, or soft and membranous, such as in grapes and berries. In citrus fruits, the endocarp is the only part that is consumed, and it consists of segments that contain juice sacs.

    The Functions of Pericarp


    The Three Layers of Pericarp

    The pericarp has several roles in the life cycle of plants. Some of its functions are:

    • Protection: The pericarp protects the seed from physical damage, water loss, pathogens, and predators. It also regulates gas exchange and water absorption for the seed.
    • Dispersal: The pericarp helps in seed dispersal by attracting animals that eat or carry the fruit. The pericarp may have bright colors, sweet flavors, or pleasant aromas to entice animals. Some fruits have hooks or spines on their pericarps that attach to animal fur or feathers. Other fruits have wings or air sacs on their pericarps that allow them to be carried by wind or water.
    • Nutrition: The pericarp provides nutrients for the seedling when it germinates. The pericarp may store carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, or water that can be used by the young plant.

    Conclusion


    The Functions of Pericarp

    Pericarp is a term that describes the part of the fruit that develops from the ovary wall after fertilization and surrounds the seed. It consists of three layers: the epicarp, the mesocarp, and the endocarp. The pericarp can be fleshy or dry, depending on the type of fruit. The pericarp has various functions in plant reproduction, such as protection, dispersal, and nutrition.

    Examples of Pericarp in Different Fruits

    There are many types of fruits that have different pericarp structures and characteristics. Here are some examples of fruits and their pericarps:

    • Apple: An apple is a pome fruit, which means that the pericarp is derived from both the ovary wall and the receptacle (the part of the flower stalk that bears the flower). The epicarp and mesocarp form the smooth and fleshy skin of the apple, while the endocarp forms the tough and fibrous core that contains the seeds.
    • Banana: A banana is a berry fruit, which means that the pericarp is entirely fleshy and derived from the ovary wall. The epicarp forms the yellow and thin peel of the banana, which can be easily removed. The mesocarp and endocarp form the soft and sweet pulp of the banana, which contains many tiny seeds.
    • Coconut: A coconut is a drupe fruit, which means that the pericarp has a fleshy mesocarp and a hard endocarp. The epicarp forms the brown and hairy husk of the coconut, which is usually removed before selling. The mesocarp forms the thick and fibrous layer of the coconut, which can be used for making ropes or mats. The endocarp forms the hard and smooth shell of the coconut, which contains a cavity filled with water and a white and oily flesh.
    • Corn: A corn is a caryopsis fruit, which means that the pericarp is dry and fused with the seed coat. The epicarp forms the thin and transparent layer of the corn kernel, which can be seen when peeling off the husk. The mesocarp forms the starchy and yellow layer of the corn kernel, which is edible. The endocarp forms the hard and white layer of the corn kernel, which is attached to the seed.

    The Importance of Pericarp in Agriculture and Food Industry


    Examples of Pericarp in Different Fruits

    The pericarp is an important part of many fruits that are cultivated and consumed by humans. The pericarp has various applications in agriculture and food industry, such as:

    • Food production: The pericarp is often used as a source of food for humans and animals. Many fruits are eaten whole or processed into juices, jams, pies, wines, etc. Some fruits are dried or preserved for long-term storage. Some fruits are used as spices or flavorings for other foods.
    • Food quality: The pericarp affects the quality and shelf life of fruits. The pericarp protects the fruit from spoilage by preventing water loss, microbial infection, insect damage, etc. The pericarp also influences the color, texture, flavor, aroma, and nutritional value of fruits.
    • Food waste management: The pericarp is often discarded as waste after consuming or processing fruits. However, some pericarps can be recycled or reused for various purposes. For example, some pericarps can be composted or converted into biogas or biochar for soil improvement. Some pericarps can be extracted for valuable compounds such as oils, pigments, antioxidants, etc.
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