Fruit Hieroglyphics (Fruit Acronyms and Related Terms)

I have spent a lot of time reading posts on various topics on this forum and even with all of my research, I still seem to run into various fruit specific terminology that I am not always sure about.

Recent examples include “breba” crops for figs and “primocane vs floricane” for raspberries.

For those who are intimately familiar with these fruits, it is probably second nature to discuss but it is challenging for someone new to follow the conversation.

This post is an open invitation for those who are familiar to explain the concepts of various niche fruit terminology.

I’m sure figs and brambles aren’t the only ones that have special terms so feel free to add more.

But there’s Google and Wikipedia…so not understanding is due to lack of looking it up…it’s amazing the stuff you used to have to get an encyclopedia for.


I agree to a point @BlueBerry. HOWEVER, this site has generally taken the place of those resources on fruit related topics for me, as information elsewhere seems to be more challenging to find (ads, bad advice as Click bait etc) so I figured I’d try keeping it “in house” as a reference.


You make a valid point.
Still, if I can find the info I am looking for in a couple clicks, I hate to bother other people
if it’s a easy problem to solve. (I do realize some ‘easy’ problems for some are ‘hard’ problems as other folks look at them).

As I see it, most of the posts here fall into the “easy for some, hard for others” category. This one was intended for those beginners in a certain category to have that background knowledge to understand the important parts that might seem trivial to experts.

Fig put out 2 crops per year. Late summer and fall the years fresh growth produces fruit. that same growth winters over then in spring it produces fruit on last years growth often before the tree sends out new growth. it is this early spring crop that is called the Breba crop.


Their are a lot more fig terms than just breba. It gets worse.

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I think this is an excelent idea.
It might be nice to have a topic in the reference section explaining short and in detail what all the commen terms mean.

Maybe we could use this topic as a “trial” and collect feedback/improve text. Until we are sure it’s “good” and than move it into a separate topic in the reference section, that’s clean of discussion, and just contains explanations of all the terms.

I’m not as experienced as others in the fig department. So please correct me if I’m wrong or incomplete.

Short version

Breba crop are figs growing on last years shoots. (thus shoots making leaves for the 2e time = 2e leaf)

  • they tend to ripen earlier, and thus are used in colder/shorter growing seasons.
  • not all figs give a breba crop.
  • you prune to retain roughly 50%.
    new shoots (1e leaf going into second leaf) will give breba next year.
    you thus prune away branches that have breba fruited and will go into 3e leaf next season.

main crop
are the figs that grow on shoots that grew this year.

  • they usually ripen later, end of summer/fall.
  • some main crop figs need a special wasp for pollination to fruit.
  • you can yearly prune everything back to the framework of the tree.

Detailed explanation.

Fig, Breba and Main Crop.

There are many varieties or species of fig. And they have different fruiting habits.

Breba (Figs produced on last years growth)
Some fig plants form the start of the fig fruit end of summer/fall and grow that fig large over spring. This fruit crop we call the Breba crop. They are:

  • figs produced on last years growth
  • and usually ripen mid summer.
  • Since this breba crop ripens earlier than the Main Crop, this is the most reliable crop for colder or shorter seasons.
  • the breba crop fruits can be a different size shapoe or have a different colour than the main crop.
  • When it ripens properly, the main crop is usually considered superior in quality. However, since the breba crop ripens earlier in the summer, during higher temperatures and sunshine. In climates where the main crop does not ripen well. the breba’s are superior due to the ripening time.
  • Not all figs produce breba crops.
  • as far as I’m aware breba figs don’t need pollination.

Main crop (Figs produced on this years growth)
The fig tree also produces figs on the shoots that grow this year. These figs are the Main crop figs. They are

  • usually larger and superior to breba, but only if the season is long enough for them to properly ripen.
  • they harvest later than breba, usually end of summer and fall.
  • some figs produce only a main crop.
  • some figs need a special fig wasp for the main crop to fruit.

Edible figs as we know them, are purely female flowers.
But some of those don’t fruit without pollination from a special fig wasp.
This wasp is dependent on caprifigs. Caprifigs are figs that produce hermaphrodite fig flowers. These caprifigs are usually not good for eating by us. And are found on a different fig plant from the edible varieties.

The fig wasp is born in a caprifig, and when leaving the caprifig takes with her some pollen from the male part of the caprifig.
And then fly’s to either

  • another caprifig, where she lays eggs for the lifecycle to start over again.

  • or to a female flower fig (those we eat) where she can enter the fig fruit, and pollinate it. But won’t be able to lay eggs that hatch into new wasps. Here she dies and is absorbed by the fig fruit.

Pruning for breba or main crop.
Figs keep producing well, even without pruning. So if you have the space you could just let it grow bigger and bigger. For most of us, this is impractical though. And we have a defined amount of space we can fill and thus have to prune back. How we prune can affect how many braba or main crop figs we get.

More main crop (less or no breba)
Since the main crop is formed on shoots growing this year, to increase the main crop on a fig tree that has to be pruned to size, you tend to create a permanent framework. And prune back to that framework each year. So you basically have a permanent framework of branches that keep getting older. And the rest are new shoots. You have practically no 2 year old wood on the tree. (with 2 year old, i mean branches that go into second leaf)

More breba (or breba combined with main crop)
Since the breba is formed on 2 year old wood (second time a leaf grows from the shoot). If we want to increase the breba crop we need more 2 year old wood. Since wood can only get to 2 years old after it has been 1 year old, we thus also need 1 year old wood.

Thus we prune back to the permanent multi year old “framework” and opposed to main crop pruning. We prune all branches that have had a breba crop or will go into their 3e leaf next season. (these branches will consist of the bottom half 2 year old wood, and top half new shoot)

and thin the 1 year old shoots that come from the framework to proper spacing. Those will fruit next year, and will be pruned away after fruiting to make space for new 1 year old shoots.


Short version.

Primocanes fruit on the shoots that grew from the ground this year. (and can also sometimes fruit on shoots from last year)

They usually grow vertical shoots from the ground. That can fall over, so benefit from sideways support.

You can prune away in dormant season
-everything (for harvest summer/fall)
-half of all the shoots (for a partial spring harvest and a partial summer/fall harvest)
-nothing (lesser health of plant usually though)

Floricanes fruit on the shoot that grew from the ground last year.

They usually grow in a climbing fashion, and need support to stay upright. (vertical support, literally holding up the shoot)

You should only prune branches that are dead or have fruited already. (2 year old branches after harvest)
And after pruning, bind up the new shoots for next years harvest.
Detailed version

Rubus fruiting habit. Primocane Floricane.

Raspberry’s, Blackberries, hybrids and Japanese wineberry’s. Are all members of the Rubus family.

And have similar fruiting habits.

The fruiting habits can be grouped into two major groups.

Are those that flower and fruit on shoots growing out of the ground (roots) this year. (1e leaf)

  • They tend to ripen later in the year, for example “fall” raspberry’s are Primocanes.
  • However there are also primocanes that ripend end of spring/ early summer on the primocane growth.
  • And there are also Primocanes that keep growing new shoots over the season, and thus have multiple harvests of the different primocanes over the season, sometimes these are marketed as everbearing.
  • The fruit on primocanes is usually at the top of the cane, on small side branches with no or few leaves.
  • a lot of primocanes fruit a 2e time if you let the shoot overwinter.
  • for the 2e fruiting you usually don’t get fruit at the tip of the shoot, but from small side branches lower on the shoot
  • the 2e fruiting on a overwintered primocane is usually ripe in early spring.
  • primocanes usually grow upright shoots, that although they can fall over, and thus benefit from some supprot. They don’t “climb” and can be growing as a “shrub” or “hedge”
    -there used to be only raspberry’s that fruited primocane (called fall bearing raspberries). But recently there have been blackberry’s coming to market that are also primocane. And some other “wild” Rubus might also be primocane.

Floricanes are those who do not fruit on this years growth. They make fruit on last years growth (the shoots that make leaves for the 2e time)
Japanese wineberry’s most blackberries and “summer” raspberry’s are example of floricanes.

  • Floricanes fruit on last years shoots, And thus if you prune all of the new shoots, you will have no harvest next year.
  • most Floricanes grow longer and are more bendable/climbing than their primocane counterparts.
  • Floricanes tend to require more support, and grow more “horizontal” verses the vertical upright growth habit of primocanes.
  • Floricanes tend to fruit on larger side branches from last years shoot. These side branches that end in a cluster of fruits, usually have leaves as wel.
  • sometimes a floricane will produce a few flowers/fruits in it’s 1e year (1e leaf)
  • if the floricane plant has been pruned heavily or is very strong. it can produce side branches on the shoot in it’s 1e year. These tend not to fruit in the first year. But produce more side branches on these side branches in the 2e year, those will fruit. But can take up a lot of space or be hard to support.

Pruning Primocanes.
You are spoiled with options here, and whatever you do you’ll get fruits. Very beginner tolerant.

  • you can literally mow the raspberry field in the dormant season. And you’ll get your next years harvest from summer to fall.
  • you can prune some of the shoots that grew/fruited this year. The remaining shoots will give an earlier spring harvest next year. And the room you created by pruning will be filled up by new shoots that fruit in summer/fall.
    This gets you most spread in harvest.
  • you can also neglect them and not prune at all. Some 1 year old shoots die by themselves in the dormant season. And most will die automatically after fruiting the second time. This form of neglect tends to not benefit the health of the plant. And usually yields to lower fruit yields compared to the “mowing” or “thinning” pruning strategies.

Pruning floricanes
Since floricanes fruit on last years growth. be very careful and aware when pruning this years shoots.

  • Apart from thinning if you got to many shoots, you never want to prune a new shoot away.
  • if you prune all of this years growth, you will get 0 crop next year.
  • if your overly vigorous floricane already forms long side branches on this years growth. You can prune those back to a few buds.
  • almost all your pruning tends to be after harvest, just pruning away the branches that have just fruited, and binding up the shoots that grow from the ground this year for next years harvest.

It’s a start but some incorrect info on the figs. Breba are bigger not smaller. Breba are anything but reliable. I’m in a short season location and don’t grow for breba. They easily will abort with changes in the weather. I’m talking in cold short season locations. In other places breba crops make more sense. Some still grow them anyway in cold short season places. As it may be hard to get a main crop. Or they like the early figs. I myself prefer the higher quality main crop which in most cultivars is a very reliable crop. My early main crop figs are starting to ripen now. In 6a.
Some important to know terms like
Smyrna figs, San Pedro, common, another name for breba is profichi.
Breba are figs that grow on the previous years wood. Latent fruit buds. If you prune off current years wood you will get no breba next year. Main crop grows only on current years wood. I left out about 25 other terms like Calimyrna.
Figs are very strange and the terminology is confusing. Well unless your a botanist.


your right Drew, i wrote it down wrong.

and maybe reliable was the wrong word.

Depending on climate either your breba or main crop might preform better. For us, a lot of main crop doesn’t ripen in time. So most years we only get ripe breba’s. This however is also variety dependent. Some varieties have an early ripening main crop. And easily drop the breba’s.

climates zones can be quite misleading considering fig ripening.

A zone 6 with hot summers might ripen a fig more consistently than a zone 8 with cool cloudy summers.

San Pedro figs produce a breba but need pollination for the main crop.

Smyrna figs need pollination for both crops, but because pollen is only produced in the first crop of caprifigs (profichi), the breba always drops.

That is much more simplified than reality, both San Pedro and Smyrna figs can produce main crop fruits without pollination.

However, controlled pollination experiments are very rare, so the idea is poorly understood.

It does however pose a significant problem for people who are trialing varieties that may need pollination. Several varieties are described as partly common, aka parthenocarpic, aka persistent, aka does not require pollination… because they will often drop fruit due to stress or other causes. So the concept is understood, or at least was, but is still a glass half full term because another way to say the same thing is calling them partly Smyrna.

Without knowing and testing for the gene or genes responsible for persistence, categorizing varieties is completely subjective. And unfortunately there is a strong tendency to call any variety that ripens even a single fig without pollination a common fig because it makes them much more desirable.

Ferrara, G., Mazzeo A., Pacucci, C., Matarrese, A.M.S., Tarantino, A., Crisosto, C.H., Incerti, O., Marcotuli, I., Nigro, D., Blan (1).pdf (491.8 KB)


I do agree that plant terminology is a lot to learn as a new gardener and there is lots of new gardeners out there right now. I find that with any community you just join though. For example there is a abbreviation for a Silver Eagle coin in the silver/gold collecting community. It is useful for newcomers if there is a pinned bar for terminology. That being said there is a lot of terms for gardening. There is also a lot of care topics that may even be specific to region. A good example is peach trees need dormant oil and copper fungicide which the average person will not know. It gets even more confusing once we talk about 1st or second year wood on which things fruit on and the terms for it. I mean all the difference for Floricane or primocane is which year does it fruit. It does not help when we start talking about self fertile varieties vs not self fertile ones and which ones pollinate which if not self fertile. Like I said it all gets very confusing. My parents installed gardening in me from a very young age but they taught me the basics with things like squash and gardening gets very complicated particularly when we start talking about growing trees or even bushes.

In my cool (cooler than Seattle) maritime climate, my delicious Desert King fruiting never quite matches the breba vs. main crop descriptions. A consistent producer of hundreds of (I thought) breba fruit in late August, my tree also has about 1% fruit that soften a few weeks before the breba crop. That fruit is lighter in color, usually smaller, dry and inedible. I am assuming that is the main crop, or do I have my terms reversed?
On left: softening now, yellow, inedible, usually smaller,
On right: currently hard, green, pink inside, will ripen around Aug 25th.



They are breba figs that the tree is aborting.

Another way to learn is to listen to podcasts. I really like “joe Gardener” show. A science research backed gardening methods type of show. Mostly for the organic gardener. I like to start as organic as possible and go from there. In one show joe buys all this equipment and let’s you know what works. I have learned a lot from that show. Top rate excellent stuff. Give it a shot. I like to garden and listen on my iPhone.
One of many excellent shows in the internet.
Joe though covers the basics from seed starting to tree planting. The guests are always excellent. New methods, better methods of just about any and all subjects related to various gardening methods. What’s possible. I get my best advice here from gardeners and professionals with decades of experience that appear on these shows. Of course we have many old timers and professionals right on this board. Why this place rocks so much. I just can’t get enough. I super enjoy figuring out how to grow each species. I always add new plants each year. Well most years. I added two this year Shipova fruit tree and Victoria green and Crimson red rhubarb. All have established and are coming along better than expected. Back to figs Lee Reich just released a book on growing figs in cold zones. I bet it’s a winner.


OK makes sense. Thanks!! I love that some parts of this site are over my head. A great challenge to keep up!


Are San Pedro, Smyrna, and common the only 3 classifications? I saw you guys discussing these on other threads but didn’t know where to start…

Edit: it seems this is the case, but I bet it’s more complicated than that :sweat_smile:

It is more complicated… Seemingly because caprifigs (potentially) produce 3 crops for the wasp life cycle, female figs also vary in regard to that third crop.

It is also not well researched, and not really discussed in context often. But basically some female varieties will tend to set the main crop late and will ripen a winter crop. It is usually only possible in very warm areas of course.

The proper terminology is: uniferous(breba only), biferous(breba and main), and triferous(breba, main, and winter).

Ripening speed also factors in. For example, Ronde de Bordeaux will often set the main crop later than others, but because it ripens so quickly, most of the “winter” crop will ripen in October here. It isn’t ideal, and pruning is also a factor…

A tree that freezes to the ground for example will set fruit much later than one which survived intact or lightly pruned, and the unripe figs left at the end of the season would most likely fit into the third crop category. There is no clear delineation like between breba and main though, so it is hard to say.

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Persimmons - have a few terms PCA, PVA, PCNA, PVNA, C-PCNA, J-PCNA, DV which can be very confusing to follow.