Medlar (Mespilus) is a genus of two species of flowering plants in the subfamily Maloideae of the family Rosaceae. One, Common Medlar Mespilus germanica, is a long-known native of southwest Asia and possibly also southeastern Europe (Black Sea coast of modern Turkey), and the other, Stern's Medlar Mespilus canescens, was recently (1990) discovered in North America.
The Common medlar features an unusual apple-like fruit that requires bletting to eat; although not widely eaten today, consumption of these fruits was much more common in the past.
Medlars are deciduous large shrubs or small trees growing up to 8 m tall. The leaves are dark green and elliptic, six to fifteen centimetres long and three to four centimetres wide. The leaves turn a spectacular red in autumn before falling. The five-petalled white flowers, produced in late spring, are hermaphrodite and pollinated by bees. The fruit is a pome, two to three centimetres in diameter, with wide-spreading persistent sepals giving a "hollow" appearance to the fruit; it is matte brown in M. germanica and glossy red in M. canescens.
The Common medlar can most commonly be found today in Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe, i.e. along the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. The fruit is native to Asia Minor , as well as the Caucasus and Northern Iran, and has an ancient history of cultivation; it was grown by the ancient Greeks and Romans, beginning in the 2nd century BCE. The medlar was a very popular fruit during the Victorian era; however, it is a fruit which is now rarely appreciated except in certain areas, such as the northern province of Gilan (Persian: استان گیلان) and Mazandaran (مازندران)in the Caspian sea region of Iran, across the central Balkans and in the Caucasus.
Within subfamily Spiraeoideae, Mespilus is most closely related to Crataegus, Amelanchier, Peraphyllum, and Malacomeles.
The genus Eriobotrya (loquats) was once considered to be closely related to Mespilus, and is still sometimes called the "Japanese Medlar".
Many authors group Mespilus together with Crataegus in a single genus, with species names Crataegus germanica (L.) Kuntze, and Crataegus ×canescens (J. B. Phipps) T. A. Dickinson & E. Y. Y. Lo.
Medlars are not widely available at present, though one can purchase the fruit and trees of the Common medlar from specialists.
In the UK, Common medlar fruit are available seasonally at Borough Market, from Fitz at the market or online www.herbspice.co.uk or Booth's (The Wild Mushroom Store) and Chegworth valley.
Common medlar jelly is available year-round from Classic Preserves of Brogdale Agricultural Trust and from Tiptree.
The trees are self-fertilizing and long-lived (they can be hundreds of years old), and saplings are cheaply available by mail order in the UK.
In the US, trees and seeds are available as discussed in this article: Plant of the Week: Medlar
1. ^ Potter, D.; Eriksson, T.; Evans, R.C.; Oh, S.H.; Smedmark, J.E.E.; Morgan, D.R.; Kerr, M.; Robertson, K.R.; Arsenault, M.P.; Dickinson, T.A.; Campbell, C.S. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License