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Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana L.) is described by some to be the most delicious tropical fruit in the world. Although I'm not sure that I agree with this description (see Fresh Fruit), mangosteen is certainly one of the most interesting fruits from an ethnobotanical or reproductive biology perspective. Botanically, the species is dioecious with separate male and female trees. A male mangosteen tree, however, has never been found and female trees produce fruits asexually through the process of apomixis. There are many possible scenarios to explain how this may have happened, but female trees that produce an indescribably delicious fruit coupled with marginally useful male trees, the appearance of a mutant apomictic gene, and thousands of years of careful selection by local villagers seems like a plausible explanation to me. [NOTE: The image shows mangosteens for sale in the main market of Kuching, Sarawak].

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