× Crataemespilus grandiflora (Sm.) E.G. Camus

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Credits

Julian Sutton (2023)

Recommended citation
Sutton, J. (2023), '× Crataemespilus grandiflora' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/x-crataemespilus/x-crataemespilus-grandiflora/). Accessed 2024-05-26.

Genus

Common Names

  • Medlar-thorn
  • Smith's Medlar

Synonyms

  • Crataegus × lobata (Poir.) Bosc
  • Mespilus × smithii Ser.

Glossary

hybrid
Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).
variety
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.

Credits

Julian Sutton (2023)

Recommended citation
Sutton, J. (2023), '× Crataemespilus grandiflora' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/x-crataemespilus/x-crataemespilus-grandiflora/). Accessed 2024-05-26.

Deciduous shrub or small tree to 9m. Branchlets downy. Leaves ovate to obovate, 3–7 cm long, often lobed towards the apex, margin with uneven, forward-pointing teeth, both surfaces downy; petiole 6–13 cm, hairy. Flowers usually in pairs or threes, terminal on spur shoots, 2–2.5 cm across across; petals white, calyx hairy. Fruit 1–1.6 cm across, spherical to ovoid, orange-brown, flesh mealy, tasting like that of a hawthorn, containing two hard pyrenes. Flowering early summer. (Bean 1976; Cullen et al. 2011).

RHS Hardiness Rating H6

A very leafy, vigorous tree, this uncommon but old hybrid is a little more than mere botanical curiosity. Most agree that it is reasonably attractive in flower and fruit. Bean (1976) went as far as claiming that it ‘flowers with the greatest freedom towards the end of May, and makes a picture of extreme beauty and elegance’; its continued scarcity, despite commercial availability, suggests that his was an extreme view. Yellow or orange autumn colour can be a bonus, especially after a hot summer (Edwards & Marshall 2019). It is apparently sterile, and usually grafted onto Hawthorn (Medlar or Quince rootstocks might perhaps also be tried).

× Crataemespilus grandiflora is thought to be of French origin (Cullen et al. 2011; Edwards & Marshall 2019) but more than that is uncertain. Loudon’s (1844) comments under Mespilus smithii suggest that it was established in English gardens by the first decade of the 19th century; he lusted after an imagined ‘scarlet-flowered variety of this species’. It is still sometimes offered commercially in Europe, although its curiosity status has probably led to over-representation in large collections. Larger specimens can be seen across the British Isles; examples include trees at the University of Aberdeen’s Cruickshank Botanic Garden, Scotland (8 m × 130 cm, 2018), Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff (9 m × 160 cm, 2013), and Oxford Botanic Garden (7 m × 118 cm, 2018 – The Tree Register 2023). It is probably hardy some way east into continental Europe, although less often grown; it is recorded at Arboretum Robert Lenoir, Rendeux, Belgium (Plantcol 2023). It remains a very rare plant in North America, despite being in commerce by about 1880 (Jacobson 1996). There is a handsome tall specimen dating from 1960 at the Arnold Arboretum, MA; tellingly, it was obtained from a British nursery (Arnold Arboretum 2023).