Scope and background


Fruits and seeds form the bulk of agricultural commerce. However, they can also be common contaminants of some commodities. To safeguard agriculture and natural resources and facilitate a healthy seed trade, unknown fruits and seeds must be correctly identified. Accurate and efficient identification is a critical step in safeguarding against seed-borne diseases, assessing product quality and certification, verifying that a product meets a country’s phytosanitary requirements, and halting the introduction, establishment, and spread of economically and environmentally detrimental plant species.

Prior to this tool, the only digital diagnostic tool that existed to identify seeds and fruits to all seed plant families, “Family Guide for Fruits and Seeds”, was difficult to access due to dated software, challenging characters, and taxonomic changes. Fruit and Seed Family ID is adapted from the “Family Guide for Fruits and Seeds” to provide a more user-friendly, accessible, and up to date resource to support seed identification using minimal magnification. Nomenclature in “Family Guide for Fruits and Seeds” followed GRIN as of December 2003, which broadly followed Cronquist (1981). Development of features and states relied on literature as well as morphological studies of fruit and seed samples in the U.S. National Seed Herbarium, housed at the U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C. Fruit and Seed Family ID incorporates as much of the data from “Family Guide for Fruits and Seeds” as possible, while also adjusting characters so they’re easy to use and incorporating the taxonomic changes that have occurred over the last two decades.


Fruit and Seed Family ID is designed to support identification of any fruits and seeds. This tool is intended for individuals working at ports of entry, state departments of agriculture, university extension services, and for anyone interested in fruit and seed identification. This is a multi-year project; the first edition of the tool covers 79 monocotyledon families (based on the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016)), which is a small subset of overall seed plant diversity. Nonetheless, many of the contaminants that are frequently encountered are members of this group. Nomenclature in the tool follows GRIN-Global, which generally follows the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group’s classification (2016). The next editions of Fruit and Seed Family ID will expand the families to include all flowering plants and then all seed plants.