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Chaenomeles japonica (Thunb.) Spach

Modern name

Chaenomeles japonica (Thunb.) Lindl. ex Spach


Pyrus japonica Thunb.; Cydonia japonica (Thunb.) Pers.; Cydonia maulei T. Moore; Chaenomeles maulei (T. Moore) Schneid.; Pyrus maulei (T. Moore) Mast.

A low, spreading, deciduous thorny shrub, usually under 3 ft in height, considerably more in width; branchlets very downy when young. Leaves 1 to 2 in. long, obovate or oval to almost orbicular, toothed, tapering at the base to a short stalk, quite glabrous; stipules large on the young growing shoots, ovate or broadly heart-shaped, 14 to 34 in. wide. Flowers in almost stalkless clusters from the joints of the year-old wood, very abundant, orange-red, scarlet or blood-red, 112 in. across. Fruit apple-shaped, 112 in. diameter, yellow stained with red on the sunny side, fragrant.

Native of Japan; introduced about 1869 by Messrs Maule of Bristol. It was at first considered to be a new species and was named Cydonia maulei. Many years passed before it was discovered that it was the species to which Thunberg had given the name Pyrus japonica in his Flora Japonica (1784), and that the plant grown for so long in gardens as “Pyrus japonica” or “Cydonia japonica” was quite another species, for which the correct name is Chaenomeles speciosa (q.v.).

This is one of the most charming of red-flowered dwarf shrubs, flowering from April to June, and when at its best, literally wreathing its branches with blossom. It bears fruits freely, and they are pleasantly coloured and scented in early winter; though harsh and acid when raw, they make an excellent conserve. Besides its dwarfer habit, it differs from its near ally, C. speciosa, in having minutely warted twigs, and more obovate or rounded, more coarsely toothed leaves.

f. alba (Nakai) Ohwi – Flowers white. This should not be confused with the garden variety ‘Alba’, which is now considered to belong to the hybrid group C. × superba.

var. alpina Maxim. – Plants dwarfer, with smaller leaves and flowers. This variety is not in cultivation. Plants raised from seed of dwarf specimens collected by Sargent in the mountains of Japan were at first considered to belong botanically to var. alpina. But in cultivation they did not retain the dwarfness of the wild parents, though remaining somewhat smaller than the plants from Maule’s introduction to Britain. In Europe they were once grown under Lemoine’s name “Cydonia sargentii”.

Following the introduction of C. japonica in 1869, many seedlings were raised from it, of various habit and colour, and distributed as varieties of “Cydonia maulei” (as it was then called). These, however, are now considered to be of hybrid origin, with C. speciosa as the other parent, and thus belong to the hybrid group C. × superba (q.v.).

C. × clarkiana Weber – This is the collective name for hybrids of the parentage C. japonica × cathayensis, first raised by the late W. B. Clarke of California. A few named forms of the cross have been distributed but are surpassed in garden value by the later C. × californica group (q.v. under C. × superba).



Other species in the genus