Two recent organic navel oranges had a lot of these 2-x-head-of-a-pin sized seed-like things. Each orange had maybe 25 of them clinging to the very center membrane in the orange. I allowed them to dry overnight and they do seem to feel like seeds, but obviously very small for orange seeds. They were also at the very center of the orange, not just off-center where orange seeds would be expected to be. What are they? EDIT: Better picture (marginally). When in doubt RTFM.

It seems pretty obvious that they are seedy things. But are they typical? Why have I never seen them before? Is it some kind of mutation trying to make our seedless oranges seeded again? What?

FURTHER EDIT: Strangely, these were the most flavorless oranges that I have ever encountered. Even the zest lacked any kind of orange flavor.

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I'm from the garden/landscape section of the site, but post your question there anyway, regardless of my answer - you may get a better/different one! Navel oranges, technically, are parthenocopic, which means they produce fruit without fertilisation, and that's why they are seedless. However, if the blossom is pollinated by a suitable donor, then seeds may form. These are usually, as you've discovered, vestigial seeds and may not even be fertile. The cause of the pollination (if the fruit is grown in the States, usually) is beekeepers bringing bees to orchards where other varieties of orange may be growing, or other varieties growing too close to parthenocopic varieties, usually out of ignorance by the grower when planting. Quite often, the navel fruits with seeds are of a smaller size, though not always.

  • I may take it to the gardening site if I find myself bored, but your answer is awesome because it answers the underlying question of why, and why today all of a sudden. – Jolenealaska Dec 5 '13 at 18:47

Yes, those are vestigial seeds.

Breeding a fruit with absolutely no seeds is quite difficult if not impossible, as the whole point of fruits is to have seeds, and get those seeds distributed by animals or insects. There is almost always some remnant or reduced version of the seed.

Just as a point of interest, so-called seedless fruits usually are sterile, and so the plants must be propagated by another method. All the members of the cultivar are therefore genetic clones.

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    Certainly vestigial seeds would be something I'd expect to see in any seedless fruit, but why so dramatically all of a sudden? There were a boatload of these. Oranges (often "seedless") have always been a go-to snack. I don't think I have ever seen so many Baby Seedies. – Jolenealaska Dec 5 '13 at 8:45
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    I cannot answer that; you would have to ask an expert on citrus biology and the commercial cultivars. You might take it to gardening, but I am not sure you would get a great answer there either. – SAJ14SAJ Dec 5 '13 at 8:48
  • Hmm, funny that I registered for the gardening site just today. Ok, I'll ask them. – Jolenealaska Dec 5 '13 at 8:51

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