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Name: susan
Status: N/A
Grade: other
Location: UT
Country: N/A
Date: 9/2/2005


Question:
What is the difference between a nut and a seed. How can you define the difference. Some say that a nut has a hard shell, and a seed can produce a plant. But many nuts like hazel nuts, and walnuts produce new plants, such as trees. What is the difference?


Replies:
Nuts ARE seeds. A fruit is the part of a plant that contains the seeds. So the nutshell is the fruit, and the nut is the seed.

Van Hoeck


A nut is a type of fruit. So then what is a fruit? A fruit is a mature ovary from a flower. Every fruit contains one or more seeds. And what is a seed? A seed is an embryonic plant encased in a covering, called the seed coat or integument. Every seed has the potential to germinate and grow into a mature adult plant. After a flower is pollinated, sperm are delivered to the eggs, deep down in the part of the flower called the ovary. After the eggs are fertilized, each one can develop into an embryo enclosed by an integument. That is a seed. As seeds mature, the surrounding ovary tissue develops into a fruit. This fruit can take many forms; some plants make berries (like blueberries or tomatoes), some make legumes (like peas and beans), some make dry capsules (like poppies). Other plants make pretty bizarre fruits; grasses make a fruit called a caryopsis (like a grain of wheat or a corn kernel) and members of the daisy family make a fruit called a cypsela (the little parachute things that we like to blow off the tops of dandelions).

To answer the question: many plants make a fruit called a nut. Technically, a nut is a single-seeded fruit with a hard, dry outer wall that doesn't crack open at maturity. An acorn (the fruit of an oak tree) is a perfect example of a nut. By the way, some things we usually call "nuts" are not, botanically speaking nuts. A peanut (when still in its shell) is a legume. An almond is a type of fruit called a drupe. A coconut is also a drupe.

Here is a good resource that explains, in very simple terms, how botanists think about fruits:
http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/Plants_Human/fruittype.html

Christopher Perkins


Dear Susan,

I went right to the source on this one; Webster's dictionary. A nut is "the dry, one-seeded fruit of any of various trees or bushes, consisting of a kernel, often edible, in a hard and woody or tough and leathery shell more or less separable from the seed itself: walnuts, pecans, chestnuts, acorns, etc. are all nuts. 2. the kernel or meat of such a fruit. 3. loosely, any hard-shelled fruit that will keep more or less indefinitely; peanuts, almonds, and cashews are also called nuts."

A seed is defined as "the part of a flowering plant that contains the embryo and will develop into a new plant if sown; a fertilized and mature ovule."

It seems a nut is really a fruit which technically means it contains the seeds of the plant that produces it. Perhaps we can say all nuts are seeds but not all seeds are nuts.

Maybe there's a botanist out there who could be a little more specific for you. I hope this helps a little anyway.

Martha Croll


A nut is a hard-shelled dry fruit or seed that you can sperate the rind or shell and interior kernel. A seed if the fertilized inside part of a flowering plant and that germinate and form a new plant.

So, the seed might only have one covering, like a sunflower seed, or none at all, like a dandelion seed. A nut would have a thick, seperate covering like a walnut seed.

Grace Fields



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