A ficus tree in our yard is covered with fruit. The birds know it; the tree is full of birds each morning when I step outside at first light with my binoculars around my neck. When I try to write about it, though, I hit a vocabulary problem. What are those fruit called?
I could just write "fruit," but that's so generic. Since it's a ficus, maybe they are figs. But they sure don't look like any figs I've ever seen. I want to call them "ficus berries," but I just made that up, so I'm pretty sure it's not a real name.
I ask my Facebook friends for help, and receive this article in response. Yes, it turns out, these small spherical berry-like fruits are properly called figs. But they aren't actually fruits, they are "inflorescences," or "synconia."
If I write, "The palmchats are eating the figs," you get a completely different mental picture from what's actually happening, but if I write, "The palmchats are eating the synconia," you (or at least I) get no mental picture at all.
But my main response to this article is wonder. All I wanted was a vocabulary word, but here is a world I didn't even know existed. Pollination takes place by the intervention of a wasp. And not just any old wasp. "Most fig species have their corresponding fig wasp." Except the ones that can produce fruit without pollination, called parthenocarpic. And there are more than 850 kinds of ficus tree!
Amazing! And still the palmchats are chomping away on the fruit. Ficus berries. Figs. Synconia. Fruit.