Why Don’t Limes have Seeds and Lemons Do?

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Why Don't Limes Have Seeds and Lemons Do?

Have you ever really looked at the inside of a lemon or lime? If you were to cut these fruits open and put them next to each other, one thing you might notice right away is that one has seeds while the other doesn’t.

More specifically, it’s your lime that probably doesn’t have seeds. The lemon, in comparison, does have them.

This leads to some intriguing questions. Why don’t limes have seeds, and lemons do? How do limes grow if they seemingly don’t have seeds?

Those are both great questions. We’ve looked into both and we’ll tell you what we’ve found out here.

Quick Answer: Why Don’t Limes have Seeds and Lemons Do?

Some limes lack seeds because they are parthenocarpic fruits. This means that, unlike lemons, they don’t need seeds to reproduce.

Instead, these types of lime are able to fruit without the plant being fertilized. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily the case for all limes – just a couple of the types you commonly see in stores, like Persian or Tahitian limes.

What Does Parthenocarpic Mean?

More likely than not, this is the first time you’ve heard the word “parthenocarpic.” It’s definitely not a common phrase, despite being so interesting.

If you’re curious about parthenocarpy, we’ll describe how it works in a little more detail to help you better understand seedless limes.

To give you a better understanding, it’s best to compare parthenocarpy to how other plants reproduce. With most fruits you know of, the fruit only begins to grow after an egg cell in the ovular part of the plant is fertilized. The fruit is the result of this fertizilation.

The interesting thing about parthenocarpic plants is that fertilization isn’t necessary. Parthenocarpy can occur completely naturally, but sometimes, it’s artificially created. In some parthenocarpic plants, the fruit can develop on its own, and in others, pollination is still needed.

Parthenocarpic fruits are able to grow without being fertilized, which is incredibly beneficial for a few reasons. For instance, these plants tend to have a longer shelf life. People also prefer to eat them, because they don’t have to worry about accidentally biting into a hard seed.

When a type of plant is particularly hard to fertilize, parthenocarpy can make it easier. Examples of plants that are known for difficult fertilization include figs and tomatoes.

Examples of other Parthenocarpic Plants

Limes aren’t the only parthenocarpic plants you can find. There are some types of seedless parsnips in the wild that were thought to have evolved naturally as a way to prevent animals from eating their seeds. Instead, the animals are distracted by the seedless fruits.

Commercially, seedless fruits and veggies are popular, too. You may have heard of seedless bananas, cucumbers, oranges, or pineapples.

You’ve also probably encountered a seedless watermelon or two, but these are not the result of parthenocarpy. Instead, seedless watermelons are created through a process called stenospermocarpy.

Wrap Up

"Parthenocarpic plants can reproduce without fertilization, which means they have no seeds."

Whenever you eat a fruit, you’re probably prepared to eat around the seeds or pit. However, not all fruits actually have seeds, and this could be due to a process called parthenocarpy.

Parthenocarpic plants can reproduce without fertilization, which means they have no seeds. It’s honestly amazing how plants have adapted to their surroundings and discovered new ways to grow. We personally think the science behind seedless limes is fascinating.

If you’d like to learn more about the science of limes, we’ve written a post about why limes are denser than lemons. We also have an article about why lemons and limes are sour.

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