What Is This Stinky Fruit?

Stinky Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Hurried Sketch of Very Stinky Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

These funny strawberry-like fruits came from a tree in Berkeley that I passed while  walking with a friend. The patterns on them reminded me of cloisonné beads. I picked up a few that had fallen from the tree and was surprised to find them very light and seemingly hollow, rather like marshmallows. I stuck them in my pocket to take home and sketch.

I didn’t have time that day to sketch so left them on a plate in my studio. When I returned to the  studio  the next day I noticed a foul odor, rather like vomit , and realized it was coming from these “fruits.”

Stinky Strawberry Fruit from Tree, photo

Stinky Strawberry Fruit from Tree, photo

I braved the smell and set about sketching them (quickly). I would have cut them open to discover what was inside but was afraid I’d need a gas mask. As soon as I finished the sketch I bagged them and got them out of the studio, opened the doors and turned the air cleaner on high.

In this case, beauty really is only skin deep. Whatever is under the skin is really yucky. A clever ruse by mother nature to prevent them from being eaten?

UPDATE: 1/9/12.

Mystery solved. One of my readers on Facebook put the query out to her horticultural friends and here’s what they reported:

The tree is Cornus kousa, one of the very best small tree/large shrubs. Spectacular in bloom, late spring, then very decorative in the fall. Good for birds. I found this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkkcWtQSgIY

www.youtube.com

Kousa dogwood (“Cornus kousa”) produces delightful fruits in the early fall. Learn how to recognize & use them.
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About Jana Bouc

I am an artist who loves (and lives) to sketch and paint in watercolor and oils. I teach watercolor classes in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This entry was posted in Ink and watercolor wash, Plants, Sketchbook Pages, Still Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to What Is This Stinky Fruit?

  1. Joy Corcoran says:

    Well I love a botanical mystery, but couldn’t find the stinky fruit proper name. I’m going to share it on FB to see if my wise gardening friends can identify it. I personally like Cloisonne Tree. The sketch is great — love the pink shadows and fruit colors.

  2. theINFP says:

    One man’s meat is another man’s poison :o

  3. mehrlich125 says:

    I love the way you did the shadow of the pink glass. BTW…I just found an email note from you regarding moleskin notebooks. Thank you so much for the information! It was hiding in a random email folder from a month or so ago. And belated congrats on the nomination for the UPS painting. It really is amazing.

    • Jana Bouc says:

      Thanks! Glad you found the note. That happens to me too (messages going missing). Jana

      • FYI…I have two Kousa Dogwoods at our cape house. I LOVE the gorgeous white flowers, followed by the pretty red berries. Our berries are small and we have never noticed a smell. But then again, I have never brought the berries into the house. They are an annoying mess to clean up every year as they fall to the ground with their squishy yellow centers. Despite the mess, the glory they produce in the spring is magnificent and we love these trees. I was surprised to hear that they are edible. Think I’ll pass. :)

      • Jana Bouc says:

        Haha. I don’t blame you. The picture of the inside of the fruit that I saw does not look appealing. But the beauty of the flowers and the fun berries seem worth the clean up as long as it didn’t get too big. Jana

  4. anneb54 says:

    I also love the shadow and the glass — so difficult to get right, and I think you have.

    By the way, the area around the original tree Must be fairly stinky, as the fruits rot down. Not one I would like to have in my garden!

    • Jana Bouc says:

      Thanks Anne, We were walking and it was a cold day so didn’t notice a scent. I found out what the tree is and updated the post.. A reader with horticultural experience sent me the actual information and I just updated the post. “The tree is Cornus kousa or Kousa Dogwood, one of the very best small tree/large shrubs. Spectacular in bloom, late spring, then very decorative in the fall. Good for birds and the fruits are edible. More on Youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkkcWtQSgIY” * *Jana

  5. Imogen Dent says:

    Could these be the fruits of Gingko biloba – they look about right, and the description of the smell is very accurate!! The shadow in the watercolour is excellent, btw.

  6. Imogen Dent says:

    Mind you, if they are Gingko fruits then the leaves didn’t come from the same tree. So if the leaves DID come from the same tree, then they’re no Gingkos…

    • Jana Bouc says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. A reader with horticultural experience sent me the actual information and I just updated the post. “The tree is Cornus kousa or Kousa Dogwood, one of the very best small tree/large shrubs. Spectacular in bloom, late spring, then very decorative in the fall. Good for birds and the fruits are edible. More on Youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkkcWtQSgIY” * *Jana

  7. These look like what I saw on a tree growing here although I didn’t notice any smell. I guess you didn’t either till you brought them in come to think of it. I’mnit vancouver where nothing’s very tropical and it was beyond magical to look up and see this red balloon tree randomly outside a doctor’s office. Lovely sketch.

  8. Miriam says:

    Oh, the fruit looks like lychee to me, except that I don’t think it stinks. The fruit’s pulp is kind of clear, semi transparent Lychee is great! Super popular in Asia and can be found sometimes in the States. Love the drawing! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lychee

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