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Medlar pomes and leaves.jpg
Common medlar foliage and fruit
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Subfamily: Amygdaloideae
Tribe: Maleae
Subtribe: Malinae
Genus: Mespilus
Bosc ex Spach

Mespilus canescens
Mespilus germanica

Common medlar flowers
Medlar fruit, cv. 'Nefle Precoce'

Mespilus, commonly called medlar, is a monotypic genus of flowering plants in the family Rosaceae containing the single species Mespilus germanica of southwest Asia. It is also found in some countries in the Balkans, especially in Albanian regions. A second proposed species, Mespilus canescens, discovered in North America in 1990, proved to be a hybrid between M. germanica and one or more species of hawthorn, and is properly known as ×Crataemespilus canescens.[1]


Mespilus forms deciduous large shrubs to small trees growing up to 8 m (26 ft) tall. The fruit is a matte brown pome.


Mespilus germanica is apparently native only to southwest Asia and southeastern Europe, i.e. near the Black Sea coast and western Mediterranean, and Asia Minor, as well as the Caucasus and northern Iran, but it has an ancient history of cultivation and wild plants exist in a much wider area; it was grown by the ancient Greeks and Romans, beginning in the second century BC. It was a very popular fruit in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, but has fallen out of favour there.[2]

Extant Species[edit]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Mespilus canescens - Missouri Botanical Garden.jpg Mespilus canescens Stern's medlar Prairie County, Arkansas, United States
Medlar pomes and leaves.jpg Mespilus germanica medlar or common medlar Tabaristan (Iran), southwest Asia and also southeastern Europe

Related plants[edit]

Within the subfamily Amygdaloideae, Mespilus is most closely related to Crataegus, Amelanchier, Peraphyllum, and Malacomeles.[3]

The genus Eriobotrya was once considered to be closely related to Mespilus. The loquat, one of several Eriobotrya species, was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus, and is still sometimes known in some European countries as a medlar and is still sometimes called the "Japanese medlar".

Many authors group Mespilus together with Crataegus in a single genus. When thus combined, the correct species name is Crataegus germanica (L.) Kuntze.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

The common name “snowy mespilus” attaches to certain species of Amelanchier, notably Amelanchier lamarckii and Amelanchier ovalis.


Mespilus germanica features an unusual apple-like fruit. In southern Europe, the medlar fruit ripen fully and can be eaten off the tree, but in northern climates, they require bletting to eat.[10]


  1. ^ Flora of North America
  2. ^ Baird, J.R.; Thieret, J.W. (1989). "The Medlar (Mespilus germanica, Rosaceae) from antiquity to obscurity". Economic Botany. 43 (3): 328–372. doi:10.1007/BF02858732.
  3. ^ Campbell, C.S.; Evans, R.C.; Morgan, D.R.; Dickinson, T.A.; Arsenault, M.P. (2007). "Phylogeny of subtribe Pyrinae (formerly the Maloideae, Rosaceae): Limited resolution of a complex evolutionary history". Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266 (1–2): 119–145. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s00606-007-0545-y. JSTOR 23655780.
  4. ^ Scopoli, G.A. (1760). Flora Carniolica Exhibens Plantas Carniolae Indigenas et Distributas in Classes Naturales cum Differentiis Specificis, Synonymis Recentiorum, Locis Natalibus, Nominibus Incolarum, Observationibus Selectis, Viribus Medicis. p. 583.
  5. ^ Castiglioni, L.G. 1790. Luigi Castiglioni's Viaggio travels in the United States of North America 1785–1787 with natural history commentary and Luigi Castiglioni's Botanical Observations: Viaggio negli Stati Uniti dell' America Settentrionalle fatto negli Anni 1785, 1786 e 1787....
  6. ^ Moench, C. 1794. Methodus Plantas Horti Botanici et Agri Marburgensis: Reprint with introduction and biography by William T. Stearn. Otto Koeltz Antiquariat, Koenigstein-Taunus.
  7. ^ Koch, K. 1869. Dendrologie: Bäume, Sträucher und Halbsträucher, welche in Mittel- un Nord- Europa in Freien kultivirt werden. Verlag von Ferdinand Enke, Erlangen.
  8. ^ Kuntze, O. (1891). Revisio generum plantarum. Vol. 1. Leipzig: A. Felix. p. 215.
  9. ^ Lo, E.; Stefanović, S.; Dickinson, T.A. (2007). "Molecular reapprasial of relationships between Crataegus and Mespilus (Rosaceae, Pyreae) – Two genera or one?". Systematic Botany. 32 (3): 596–616. doi:10.1600/036364407782250562. JSTOR 25064271.
  10. ^ Eichhorn, Markus (July 2011). "Nottingham Medlar". Test Tube. Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham.