October 8, 2012 | Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator & Director of Outreach

The fruit is strangely lurid. Medlar is a European tree in the Rose Family that somehow exudes an air of strangeness. I have read accounts of how terrible it is to taste fruit before hard frost: we went down to 28F or so last Saturday night...is it time yet to sample this fruit? Am I brave enough?

The Medlar is much more popular in Europe--in fact its epithet (germanicus) implies it is a central European native. it is naturalized throughout Europe, but is more likely native to the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean, but has been cultivated for centuries for its exotic fruit. Like the totally unrelated pawpaw of the USA or most species of Persimmon, this fruit must be frosted to be rid of the unpalatable qualities. The question is now--how long after frost? The books are strangely mute on the subject.

Of course, even if one never ate the fruit it would be worth growing this wonderful small tree for its beautiful flowers and habit. Good luck finding sources, however (this is not for sale at your local box store, I daresay!).  There are mail order sources, and I have a hunch our Propagation gang might get wind of the enormous commercial opportunities of growing this for our blockbuster plant sales (hint hint)...

As a rather embarrassed postscript, I must add that although this tree appears to be well established--likely growing in this spot for some time--this was the first year I noticed it. I was thrilled to find it (naturally in our awesome Herb Garden). I wonder how many other Medlars there are in Denver? I think there is a place for one in my home garden. Another post post script: I pointed this tree out to Gary Lincoff--the eminent Mushroom authority from New York City (and all around great botanist/horticulturist and wild forager) on his visit here last spring. Gary was visibly envious of our Medlar: he said that Mespilus does not grow well in New York City or the Eastern Seaboard--apparently succumbing during the protracted spells of night heat and humidity (two things we have in great moderation hereabouts!). Another reason to treasure our strange, wonderful little tree! Find it just inside and west of the east entrance to the Herb Garden...


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