Is a Macadamia nut really a seed, or a nut?

There are not many true nuts. Nuts are found in the order Fagales, with oaks, acorns, chestnuts, hornbeam, and Hazels producing nuts. The confusion about nuts is that the use of the term by botanists is different than the use of the term for culinary, or food-related applications. Most people incorrectly apply the term nut to any seed with a large oil kernel found within a hard shell, but if the hard shell opens and the seed is not fused to the hard ovary "shell," then it is not a nut. Most of what people call nuts are not true nuts (like macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pine nuts, etc.) This is like when people call a tomato a vegetable when it is actually a fruit, specifically a berry. So in short, a macadamia nut is actually a seed.

Macadamia nut image by MorePix

Have a different answer or more to add to this one? Send it to us.

Be Part of
Ask A Biologist

By volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteers page to get the process started.

Donate icon  Contribute

Share to Google Classroom