University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
SOME SMALL FRUIT TERMS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
term “small fruits” refers to those fruiting plants with, you
generally small fruits. They grow on
shrubs or low groundcovers, rather than trees—the tree fruits.
Common examples of small fruits are
raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.
Also common are some terms you’ll see when reading about these in
grouping of small fruits are the “brambles” which include
blackberries. They generally have thorns
(there are some thornless selections but often these are less
spread (look for those that don’t if this can be a problem), and are
same genus (Rubus). When raspberries are
ripe they should easily slip off the central “receptacle” or “core”
pulled. Blackberries, particularly wild
ones, in some areas are called “black caps”.
shoots of brambles are called “canes”.
Raspberries generally make fruit on shoots that are two years old —
“floricanes”. The first year shoots are
the “primocanes”. If a selection fruits
on first year shoots, such as the fall-bearing raspberries, it is
the small fruits are commonly called “berries”-- those which are
whole. Botanically, a berry arises from
one flower, with soft flesh around one or more seeds. Actually
strawberries and raspberries are
“aggregate” fruit, made up of many tiny fruit.
For brambles, these tiny fruit are called “drupelets”.
There are several
terms to know if you grow strawberries, related to groupings and
needs. Those “cultivars” (cultivated
varieties) that spread with stems, forming new plants on the ends
should be planted in “matted rows”.
Those that form clumps without many runners are for planting in
“hills”. After picking berries, before
eating them you’ll remove the green stem ends called “caps”.
fruit in June, so are called “June bearers”.
They actually form fruit from flowers that, in turn, formed the
fall when days got shorter (“short day” cultivars). The other
strawberries that bear more than
once are often lumped into “everbearers”.
The older everbearers, of which few are still sold, really only
in June and again in fall. The newer
cultivars are often referred to instead as “day neutral” since
doesn’t affect their flowering and fruiting.
Day neutral strawberries may fruit three times during the season,
including a bit earlier than the June bearers.
Grapes have the
most special terms perhaps of any of the small fruits. The two main
groupings of grapes are those
for fresh eating (“table”) and “wine grapes” (also used to make
juice). The “arms” are stems or shoots two or more years
old, or short branches off the trunk from which future canes
horizontal arms are the “cordons”. (But, with tree fruits, cordon
those trained upright into a columnar shape.) One-year old shoots
“canes”. From the canes come the shoots
called “spurs” that produce the grapes.
If the grapes
split, as after a heavy rain, this is called “cracking”. Some
cultivars are more resistant to
cracking. “Veraison” is the stage of
grape development when they start showing coloring and soften.
Grape shoots can
be on any of a number of trellis systems.
Some are descriptive, such as “high wire” (one wire about 4 feet off
ground between posts), or “low wire” (one wire about 2 feet off the
Then there are the pruning systems, the two main ones being “cane
pruning” (two wire, four cane, Kniffen system) and “spur pruning”.
While the former is most often used, the
latter is best for muscadines and vigorous grape selections (such as
climate selections in the north).
In some areas, the
southern muscadines are known as “scuppernongs” although these
should have pink
to bronze skin, not black. Other than the muscadines, most grapes
called “bunch grapes”. Many muscadines are
“slip skins” – when ripe fruit are squeezed the inner pulp slips
Many more useful
terms, and more detailed descriptions, for both small and tree
fruits can be
found in the Fruit Gardener’s Bible
by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry, or online (homefruitgrowing.info).