Plant Pick: Medlar

Latin name:  Mespilus germanica

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

Medlars make good specimen trees in areas of warm summers and mild winters. They prefer slightly acidic soil and a sunny or slightly shaded spot. They need some pruning in winter for shape and flowering and fruiting. Trees are best planted throughout the winter months. Small trees need to be staked. In spring they will show white to pink-edged flowers which have 5 ovate petals. They are self-fertile and are pollinated by bees. Fruit are harvested in fall.
Medlars were already known to the ancient Greeks and cultivated by the Romans. In medieval times it was a well-known and beloved fruit because of its availability in winter. The fruit are either harvested after a frost or harvested earlier to keep longer. In both cases they need to be "bletted" which means keeping the fruit until very soft and brown. It is then an unusual treat somewhat reminiscent of apple sauce.

Medlar fruit

                

 

Photos courtesy of:  Dorothee Kieser.

Form:

Deciduous tree or large shrub

Foliage type:

Lance-shape to oblong-oval

Height/Width:

6m (20 ft) height,; 8 m (25 ft) diameter

Hardiness Zone:

Hardiness zone 7

Exposure:

Full sun or light shade

Flower colour:

White, sometimes pink-tinged

Leaf colour:

Dark green turning yellow-brown in fall

Flower time:

Late spring, early summer

Preferred soil

& watering:

Moderately fertile, moist but well-drained

Other:

This plant is best grown as a specimen tree because of its attractive, spreading habit, its fall foliage, and its blossoms. In Europe its 5cm (2") round fruit are used in desserts.
Possible pest/disease problems: Fireblight, powdery mildew, rust, brown rot, aphids and caterpillars.
The tree is related to Hawthorn and is sometimes listed as Crataegus germanica.