also see; pruning fruit trees
Mespilus germanica, known as the medlar or common medlar, is a large shrub or small tree, and the name of the fruit of this tree. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and is unusual in being available in winter, and in being eaten when bletted. It is eaten raw and in a range of dishes. When the genus Mespilus is included in the genus Crataegus, the correct name for this species is Crataegus germanica Kuntze.
The Wild Medlar
The Medlar could just as easily be listed with wild fruit trees.
In its wild condition the Medlar is a much-branched and spiny tree, from ten to twenty feet high, in these respects resembling the Hawthorn; but, like the Pear, it puts off its defences when cultivated. Its leaves are large and undivided, of an oblong-lance shape, downy beneath, and sometimes with the edges very finely toothed. The solitary white flowers are large—one and a half inches across—with a woolly calyx, whose five tips expand into leafy growths. They appear in May or June in London, and are succeeded by brown fruits, an inch or less across, which may be described as round, with a depressed top, which is ornamented with the remains of the calyx-lobes. They ripen in October or November in London.
Edward Step, from Wayside and Woodland Trees
The Medlar (Pyrus germanica) is a small tree, native of Persia, Asia Minor, and Greece, and which is generally held to occur wild in England and the Channel Islands only as an escape from cultivation. The theory is that the tree was introduced at some date prior to 1596—when we have record of its being in cultivation here—and that the Medlar-trees growing in the hedges of south and middle England are from seeds of these cultivated trees, which have been sown by birds, or more probably mammals who have eaten the fruit. The fact that it is not found in woods is taken as evidence that it is non-indigenous. Such evidence is not the most convincing, but it is the best available. It should be noted, however, that the agents credited with its distribution along our hedgerows have free access to woods, and that if these places were favourable to the growth of the Medlar, we should probably find it there, whether indigenous or exotic. Much more conclusive, we think, is its restricted distribution abroad, as already indicated. One would not expect to find a tree whose nearest home is Greece, leaping over the whole of Europe and appearing as an indigene in Britain.
P. GERMANICA (syn Mespilus germanica).—Common Medlar. Europe (Britain), Asia Minor, Persia. Early records show that the Medlar was cultivated for its fruit as early as 1596. Some varieties are still grown for that purpose, and in that state the tree is not devoid of ornament. The large, white flowers are produced singly, but have a fine effect in their setting of long, lanceolate, finely-serrate leaves during May.