How a mango tree knows it has to grow mangoes, not apples?

By Madhurie Singh, May 09, 2010

A few days back while eating juicy mangoes my sons were discussing mangoes! mango tree

As the mango slices finished one by one the interest in mangoes seemed to go from mere pulp to its genesis. I was trying my best to not get bothered by the slurpy sound and juice trailing their arms !

When my sons finished all but the mango seeds, they were again excited!  Eating mango from the mango seed is totally different experience from eating just the slices. Something similar to a chicken leg vs chicken pieces :P.

My younger son asked me a question that seemed very easy and simple but got me thinking for the entire evening till I told him the answer in the way he could assimilate.

His question was ” Mamma, how does a mango tree know that it has to grow mangoes not apples?”

All of us had a hearty laugh at his question.

“Because it’s a mango tree!” we all answered.

But when his look did not change, I knew he needed a better answer. But to make him understand the whole funda of genes,  I was unsure myself at my ability. So I told him I will tell him the answer at night in the story time.

After I sat to work, a 10 min later there was a loud cry from the kids room! My younger one was holding is crotch and howling. And his brother was sheepishly trying to give the explanation.  Only after I whacked the older one, did my younger one stopped crying. It’s like only when we see the culprit suffer that our own sufferings diminish.

So story time had to be an important time as there were going to be two lessons told.One about the mango tree and another one about why not to hit on the crotch.

My stories are always interactive. I do start but never end them. My sons would have taken over the story, the moment they understand the real gist of it.

SO this is how our story went:

“From where does a baby bird come?” , I asked my sons.

“From an egg!”

“And from where does a small baby elephant come?’

“From a mamma elephant!”

“From where did you both come?”

“From your tummy!”

” Do you know from where does a plant grow?”

“Yes, from a seed!”

“Ok so tell me how does a seed grow into a tree?”

“You put the seed in the mud, pour water and with warmth of the sun light, a small plant grows out of the seed after a few days.”

“Ok so how do you know that all animals, birds and humans are also born from seeds?”

Both kids started laughing.

“All animals and birds have seeds in their bodies.” I told them after their laughter subsided.

” Bhaiya and  you were also born from from human seeds. DO you know where are the seeds stored in a tree?”

“In the fruit!”, they both exclaimed.

“Yes. Where are the seeds stored in your body?”

There was no answer. I think they were still trying to believe that they came from seeds.

“Ok does your brain store seeds?”


“Does your stomach store seeds?”


“So where do you think they are stored, where it will be safe?”

They went on asking me hands, legs, bum etc etc…

“Its stored there in between your legs in small bags!” , I said.

They both looked shocked.

“But mamma why here? Why not near the face?”

“Well I think god wanted the seeds to be kept in a warm area that is also safe.”

“So now you know where human seeds are stored, so if some one hits you there, what will happen to the seeds?”

“Oh the seeds will be destroyed!!!”

“Yes, and then that man will not be able to have his baby!”

“Mamma we will not hit anyone’s seed bag again!”, said the older son.

“So why only men have seeds? ” This time my younger one asked.

“Mammas also have seeds which are called eggs.”

“You mean you lay eggs like hen?” Both were laughing again, imagining me as a hen I guess! 🙂

“Well there is bag in all moms’ bodies, where seeds or eggs are stored. Then when god helps papa’s seed to join with mamma’s seed, a small baby like you is born.” They were nodding and trying to absorb what was just told to them.

After a few minutes we were discussing how an apple seed joined with lady’s finger seed would look like, and how a giraffe seed joined with a tomato seed would look like. After they had fun genetically combining plant with animals and animals with birds, it was time to move to their next question. “How does a mango tree know that it has to grow a mango and not an apple?”

“Ok tell me, when you pick a story book, does it have same story written on its pages or does it change every day?”, I asked my sons, both lying on my either arms.

“It has the same story every time we read!”

“And when you click your Dooms game, is it always the same game or a new game ?”

“Maa !! it’s the same game, how can a new game load if we click on the Dooms icon?”

“So what is there in a book or a game that makes sure the same story or the same game to be loaded everytime!”

“It written there on the pages of the book, so it is same story, and the program is written for the game, so that also is same always.” Now I was happy that computer games did make sense after all.

“Excellent. Same way all seeds have a story written inside it. Each seed has a different story. A mango seed has everything written about the color, size, shape, taste of a mango fruit. An apple seed has every detail written about apples shape, size, color, taste etc.”

“So when a mango tree grows a fruit, it’s seed already has the program written in side it that it will grow into a mango. That is why a mango tree grows a mango and not an apple!”
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Very well explained esp the seed bag :)

Interesting piece

Hi Madhurie its really fun way of teaching children the basics of science ,Thanks for the article

[…] one day my younger one wanted to know “How does an apple tree know it has to grow apples and not mangoes?”  Do read the article where I took the opportunity to tell them a bit more about their body […]

[…] one day my younger one wanted to know “How does an apple tree know it has to grow apples and not mangoes?”  Do read the article where I took the opportunity to tell them a bit more about their body […]

Nice article to teach basic science in fun way.

Wonderful and inspiring.

Hi Madhuri, I really appreciate your creative thoughts. I am a big fan of yr blog Vidya

Thanks Vidya appreciate it.

Appreciating ur creative side :) gr8.

What came first - the chicken or the egg? If the chicken came first, where did it come from - the egg? And if the egg came first, where did it come from - the chicken? :-))

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