Chaenomeles × superba
Chaenomeles eugenioides superba (Frahm) Nakai
Chaenomeles maulei alba Froebel ex Zabel
Chaenomeles maulei grandiflora-perfecta Froebel ex Zabel
Chaenomeles maulei grandiflora-rosea Froebel ex Zabel
Chaenomeles maulei superba Leichtlin ex Zabel
Cydonia maulei atrosanguinea Froebel ex Olbrich
Cydonia maulei superba Frahm
Common Name: Dwarf Quince
Chaenomeles x superba is a low, spreading, deciduous shrub that can be 100 - 150cm tall and perhaps twice as wide[
]. The plant often suckers freely and can form thickets[
Widely grown as an ornamental in gardens, where different cultivars can be used to form hedges or ground cover. The plant has the same range of edible and medicinal virtues as other members of the genus.
Although no specific information has been seen, the seed is likely to contain cyanogenic glycosides. When injested, these compounds break down in the digestive tract to release cyanide. Used in small quantities in both traditional and conventional medicine, this exceedingly poisonous compound has been shown to stimulate respiration, improve digestion, and promote a sense of well-being[
]. It is also claimed by some to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer - though this claim has been largely refuted.
In larger concentrations, however, cyanide can cause gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma and respiratory failure leading to death[
The levels of toxin can be detected by the level of bitterness:- sweet almonds, for example, contain only very low levels of it and are safe to eat in quantity, whilst bitter almonds (which are used as a flavouring in foods such as marzipan) contain much higher levels and should only be eaten in very small quantities. Great caution should be employed if the taste is moderately to very bitter[
A hybrid of garden origin, Chaenomeles japonica x Chaenomeles speciosa.
Not known in the wild.
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Chaenomeles x superba is very cold-hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -25°c when dormant[
Easily cultivated in any reasonably good soil[
]. Prefers a deep moist well-drained loam[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates full shade but requires a sunny position for best fruit production[
]. Becomes chlorotic on very alkaline soils[
]. Tolerates atmospheric pollution[
A very ornamental plant, there are many named varieties[
Plants bloom on old growth. Avoid heavy pruning, generally only removing weak growth and diseased wood. If growing against a wall, prune to shape as needed immediately after flowering in order to stimulate growth of flowering spurs which will improve bloom for the following year - although this will reduce fruit production for the current year[
Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[
Susceptible to fungal leaf spot, particularly in years with heavy spring rainfall[
Fruit - very harsh and acid raw but fragrant when cooked. Used for jams, jellies etc and as a flavouring with cooked apples[
]. The fruit can be apple or pear-shaped and up to 6cm long x 6cm wide[
Mugua is a Chinese traditional medicine derived from the fruits of Chaenomeles species. Whilst Chaenomeles speciosa is the species most commonly mentioned in the literature for its medicinal properties, in practice the fruits of all species in the genus are used interchangeably. Modern research has supported this and, indeed, shown that some of the other species actually have higher antioxidant value[
The fruit is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, astringent, digestive and hypoglycaemic[
]. A decoction is used internally in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, including nausea, joint pains, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis, asthma, common cold, cholera and associated cramps[
The fruit contains polyphenols, flavonoids, triterpenes and proanthocyanidins which have been shown to have a strong antioxidant activity[
]. Antioxidant compounds such as these have been shown to protect against
cardiovascular diseases and also exhibit anti-tumour, antimicrobial, anti-adhesive, and anti-inflammatory effects[
Plants can be grown to make a medium sized hedge[
Some cultivars, such as 'Crimson and Gold' produce suckers prolifically and are suitable for ground cover[
A good bee plant, flowering early in the year and providing pollen and nectar[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame[
]. Sow stored seed in late winter in a greenhouse[
]. Germination usually takes place within 6 weeks[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. If well grown, these seedling can be large enough to plant out in the summer, but give them some protection in their first winter. Otherwise plant them out in late spring of the following year[
]. This species is a hybrid and so will not breed true from seed.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer in a frame[
Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, late autumn in a cold frame.
Layering in late spring or in autumn. This is a sure and easy method, though it takes 12 months[