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Abstract

The diversity, abundance and display characteristics of plants producing fleshy fruits were recorded in wet sclerophyll forest near Melbourne, Victoria. Fruit characteristics and nutrient content were recorded for 14 species of fruits occurring in the forest and these characteristics compared with similar studies in north temperate and tropical regions. Plants producing fleshy fruits were confined to understorey layers and comprised 13.5% of the native vascular flora. Most species displayed fruits conspicuously by ripening brightly coloured fruits synchronously in large displays. Annual fruit production at three sites ranged from 6.98 to 37.01 kg/ha. Fruit mass, seed number and size were variable but the proportion of pulp per fruit remained remarkably consistent between species. Most fruit pulp contained high quantities of soluble carbohydrates and little lipid or protein. Fruits from wet sclerophyll forest did not differ from fruits from other geographic areas in eight characteristics measured. Although taxonomically distinct, the species in wet sclerophyll forest were not significantly different from other temperate fruits, suggesting that fruit characteristics are under the influence of factors other than phylogeny.