Pineapples aren’t eaten in the state that we normally see them but are eaten after they have ripened much further and fallen to the forest floor.
The pineapple, Ananas comosus, was originally found in south Brazil and Paraguay and indigenous peoples spread it throughout South and Central America and to the West Indies.
The plant is a herbaceous perennial and grows up to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide.
It has a rosette of long pointed leaves around a terminal bud. This bud produces the flowering stem which turns out an inflorescence of reddish purple flowers, each attached to the rest of the plant by a leaf-like structure called a pointed bract.
In the wild these flowers may be pollinated by hummingbirds and will produce small, hard seeds in the fruit.
As everyone who eats pineapples knows, commercially grown fruit have no seeds. That is because pineapples, like bananas, will still develop fruit even if they are not pollinated and fertilized. Like many other plants, pineapples are unable to self-pollinate.
The pineapple fruit is created by the fusion of between 100 and 200 individual fruitlets that are embedded in a fleshy edible stem.
The ovary of each flower becomes a berry, and all the berries coalesce into one solid structure. This is referred to as a multiple fruit or sorosis. The tough, waxy impregnable skin still contains the pointed bracts and the remains of the flower.
Although the pineapple plant can grow from seed, it also spreads very efficiently by a variety of vegetative means.
From slips that arise from the stalk below the fruit, suckers that originate at the leaves, crowns that grow from the top of the fruits, and ratoons that come out from the underground portions of the stems.
The pineapple we buy today in the supermarket is very different from its natural relatives in South America.
The wild pineapple is much smaller.
By the time it has dropped off its stem, hit the ground from quite a height, and lain on the forest floor for a few days in the hot sun, it is very ripe and very soft. So when eaten, it is likely to be mushy and to split open easily, revealing the sweet and juicy fruit inside.
Humans tend to eat commercial pineapples and bananas before they are truly ripe.
However, a soft, mushy pineapple lying on the ground is likely to be attractive to many animals including monkeys and small mammals, which will help spread the seeds.