Have you seen any double fruit in your fruit trees this season as you’ve been doing your thinning?

It’s quite common to see double fruit (like these cherries above). As you can see in this example, very often both of the fruits that are joined together are perfectly usable.

The next photo is an unusual example where the stem itself has split (but again, the fruit is absolutely fine). Doubles—or conjoined fruit—are not an uncommon occurrence, particularly in stone fruit.

Conjoined apricots with a single stem
Conjoined apricots with a single stem

Some varieties (like Angelina) seem particularly prone to this. They are often a good demonstration of the case where one piece of fruit dominates the other and ends up much larger.

Conjoined Angelina plums where one plum is much bigger than the other
Conjoined Angelina plums where one plum is much bigger than the other

This situation doesn’t always have a good outcome!

In many cases, one of the pieces of fruit ends up so small as to really be un-usable. You can see that in the example below. Or, the skin is torn when separating the two fruits, which of course downgrades the quality of the fruit.

A rude Angelina
A rude Angelina

Sometimes the extra piece of fruit is so small as to be insignificant, and may be removed without damaging the main fruit. But they’re also often cute, funny or downright rude, so why would you?

What causes this, and is it avoidable?

Whether a fruit will be double or not is determined the summer before, when the fruit buds are developing.

If the young buds go through heat or water stress during the summer months, this increases the development of doubled fruit.

There’s not much you can do about heat waves, particularly with climate change affecting our environment so quickly. But you can make sure your trees get enough water (especially during a heat wave) to minimise the stress on the tree.

Irregular or inadequate watering can also be one of the causes for fruit splitting, which is another whole story but can look like this.

A green nectarine with a split in it, possibly caused by irregular waterin
A green nectarine with a split in it, possibly caused by irregular watering

In a home garden it’s not terribly important whether you have double fruit or not because it’s usually still usable, but it’s not as pretty, and now you know how to avoid it!

Download Smart Irrigation for Fruit Trees for more tips about how to irrigate wisely without wasting water or money.