I found this green speckled fruit, which looks a lot like a grape, while hiking the Appalachian Trail near the Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area. It was in the middle of a wide section of the trail where its bright translucent green color stood out from rocks and dirt so clearly that it was nearly impossible to miss. I snapped a quick picture thinking I could easily identify it when I got home but Google was of little use.
I started to think that maybe I had just found a lone grape that some hiker accidentally dropped along their way but then… I found another one while hiking the Jacks Narrows section of the Link Trail near the Thousand Steps.
This time I made sure to get a clear picture and examine the inside of the fruit. I was quite surprised to discover that the outer “skin” of the fruit was much thicker than a grape and the inside was hollow except for a centrally located mass with strands connecting it to the outer skin. The speckles on the outside seem to coincide with the points where the center strands joined the outer skin.
Both fruits were found near the middle of wide trails through deciduous tree areas without much nearby understorey. I looked up but I don’t recall seeing anything out of the ordinary.
So… what is it? I’ve found some similar fruits such as Gooseberry, Scuppernong, Muscadine, Forest Grape and May Apple but none of them seem to have the center urchin-like mass. Maybe it’s a premature fruit and the inside would eventually flesh out?
Let me know if you have any guesses or, better yet, know exactly what the “speckled mystery grape” really is.