Self "fertility" in fruit bearing trees

There are multiple popular fruits discussed in various threads which are purportedly self fertile, some under varying conditions. I put fertile in quotes as some listed here produce seedless fruit (desirable for eating but not breeding). Some seeded fruits are likely less viable too.

There are also various terms and types of fertility that are achieved by said plants. I’ll try to get some basics out of the way, feel free to add other thoughts. The list I’m making is not all inclusive.

Figs- Some figs require no male fig pollen or fig wasps to make their “fruit”, which by the way figs are technically flowers and not fruit.

Persimmons- Parthenocarpy is the mechanism which allows some female persimmons to produce fruit without fertilization, and with that comes a seedless fruit. I’m not certain how parthenocarpy is activated, whether through a genetic mutation or if certain genes express for it.

Pawpaws- various reports of self fertility exist for many varieties resulting in fruit with seeds.

Pears- Seckel and Bartlett reported self fertile with reduced yield. Probably some others too.

Romance Bush Cherries - reported to be self fertile.

Meader Bush Cherries - reported to be self fertile except for Jan.

Peaches/plums/cherries - many are self fertile with seedlings ivery similar in fruit characteristics to the parent tree.

Citrus- many trees self fertile, some with increased yields when pollinated.

I am not aware of self fertility traits present in jujube or apples. I’m sure there are others.


Were you trying to ask a question?

It gets more complicated still. Just because one tree is self fertile it doesn’t mean that fruit production will not get a whole lot better with an additional pollinator. Even a tree that requires a pollinator would do better if there are several pollinators with a variety of pollen.

And yes, there are self fertile apples and jujubes. As stated they both will have higher yields with a pollinator/multiple pollinators around.


And more still. Some Pears, at least, will produce fruit parthenocarpically when spring weather is warm and sunny and so reliably that in S. CA commercial Bartlett production was frequently achieved without supplying cross-pollination years ago- something I read in Childer’s classic book, “Fruit Tree Science”.

I suspect the same tendency in apricots that are reliably self-fruitful in the west but produce much more consistently with cross pollination in the east.

I believe this has led to a lot of controversy about what pear varieties are self fruitful. Where I live, it varies season to season.


And the types that are less commercially important nobody has bothered to sort out what they are. Take sand cherries; some are self fruitful, some need cross pollination. You do seem to have both out there in the wild.

For me, I suppose “self-fertile” means a plant that is able to pollinate itself without hindrance in the absence of pollinators (self-compatibility) and has seeds but not one or two (other than stonefruits). and many flowers become fruits, not a low yield here and there.

‘Anna’ apples -for example- are considered self-fertile by some nurseries, but in fact produce a low yield as the rest of the flowers fall off in the absence of pollinators and different varieties nearby.

Regarding the jujube, I knew that the large-fruited jujube means a tree with reduced yield to get this size, the real self-fertile jujube produces an incredible number of fruits despite the small size.


I was more leaving it open ended for the sake of discussion as future reference.

Do you know of any specific examples? I imagine those which are self fertile are pretty good pollinators for other trees but I’m not sure. Any idea WHY, biologically speaking or otherwise some trees are self fertile?

Apples as an example, we have diploid and triploid (which require TWO additional trees to produce), so I am guessing any self fertile varieties are diploid?

So does this mean then, that those pears are seedless, similar to persimmons pollinated parthenocarpically?

That’s the whole reason this is so confusing, because parthenocarpy exists, basically tricking certain trees into thinking they were pollinated and producing seedless fruit. To my knowledge all female persimmons will do this, both Asian and American.

Grimes Golden is a common self-fertile apple. It’s also an excellent pollenizer for other apples, and generally kind of awesome.

Apples are very occasionally tetraploid, too. Levering Limbertwig is one example.

But yes, self-fertile apples are always diploid, as I understand it.


A lot of fruit have self fertile varieties. I would just say it is more limiting in selection. The Paw Paw, cherry and apple family have only a few cultivars that are self fertile. I think I read about sunflower as one of the few self fertile paw paw. Then the size of a paw paw is pretty easily managed though so it is easy to get more than one cultivar. With cherry trees it is more so the self fertile ones are some of the best known being Stella, Black Gold and White Gold. The commercially cultivated ones are often times not self fertile. I have heard multiple debates if Seckle is actually self fertile. Some nursery label it self fertile while others label it needing a pollinator. Either way with all this self fertile stuff the self fertile thing has become less and less of a issue as time has gone on. There has become more dwarfing rootstocks if you want more than one tree and if you want one tree you can get a multi grafted tree. Only plants I have seen where pollination could be a issue is something like a pecan where one tree will get to be 100 feet and is slow growing.

That’s in the absence of pollenizers (the sources of pollen), rather than pollinators (the transporters of pollen).

A self-compatible, self-fertile tree may need a pollinator to move the pollen around.

I think were having this discussion in a couple of threads.

Self-compatibility leads to the loss of genetic diversity. You can see it in peach cultivars outside of China.

While we have not had a major loss of diversity with apples due due to so many cultivars being widely shared, self-compatibility lead us to large plantations of just Yellow and Red Delicious for years. Since YD is both Self-fertile and a good pollinator. It also the parrent of so many other commercial cultivars. Apples got boreing.

Plum incompatibility has been great So many pulots and hybrids flavor profiles and harvest periods.

That just to prove the self-compatibility (self-fertility) of the cultivar. the breeze and wind cause the process of pollination, due to the proximity of the anthers and stigmas to each other.
It can be done by pollinators but covering and isolating the tree or branches is easier and more reliable, to prove and to avoid pollens of other varieties.

Pollinators are more efficient than the breeze and wind, of course.

This is an over-generalization.