The Mespilus germanica is a shrub or small tree originating in Europe and Asia, with deciduous leaves, not very long-lived, which in advanced age can reach 4-6 m in height. The bark is grayish, smooth; the crown is rounded, very branched, dense. The leaves are large, with a short petiole, oval, dark green on the upper side, almost white on the lower side. In spring, in the month of May, it produces solitary flowers, at the apex of new branches, white in color. In autumn the medlar produces roundish fruits, of an intense orange color, which have a conformation similar to a crown on the upper part, the medlars contain 3-5 large seeds. The fruits of the Mespilus germanica are edible, but their taste is strongly acid; medlars are usually picked after the first autumn frost and are left to dry in a cool, dark place until the skin has turned brown, so only sweet fruits can be tasted.
M. cuneatus is a species present in Asia, always with edible fruits, also used in oriental medicine.
The Medlar needs sunny positions to grow without problems, but it also develops well in semi-shaded positions, where it can enjoy sunlight for at least a few hours every day. This plant does not fear the cold, however it is advisable to repair very young specimens for the first winter after planting, placing them in a place that is also sheltered from the wind, a factor that can ruin the branches. The Mespilus germanica is a rustic and resistant variety and can easily withstand even winter temperatures reaching -15 ° C, thus becoming plants that can be planted even in places of high altitude.
These plants have a life cycle that can reach even fifty years, even if the production of fruits will gradually go down.
To have a more vigorous development, the medlar plant should initially be exposed for a certain period to temperatures around 7 ° C.
This variety of plants is content with rain, but may need abundant watering in very prolonged periods of drought. In autumn and spring, bury organic fertilizer at the foot of the plant. This kind of plant does not like poorly drained soils, which can cause the presence of stagnations, a factor that can lead to dangerous rots; appreciates, however, the presence of a good degree of humidity, which allows a better development. The youngest specimens need to be watered regularly, up to about the fourth year of age.
It prefers loose soils, rich in organic matter, very well drained; fears highly alkaline soils. It is a plant that has a good degree of adaptation even in substrates not particularly congenial to it. The ideal substrate also depends on the type of rootstock used; in any case it should be non-calcareous and with a certain degree of humidity, but which does not allow the formation of water stagnation, harmful to the plant.
For a better fruiting the soil must be kept free from plants and weeds; in some cases, we proceed with the sowing of a turf that can counteract the presence of other types of grass and to maintain a good degree of soil moisture.
The reproduction of this type of plants can take place by seed in spring; the new plants should be grown in a container for at least a couple of years before they can be planted. However, the technique most used for the multiplication of the medlar is that which is practiced through grafting. The most commonly used rootstocks are the quince, pear or hawthorn. The most widely used grafting technique is that with a T-shaped incision, or the double-split English technique.
In order to plant these plants it is advisable to follow some indications on the distance. If the plant is planted near a house, it is good that there are at least 4 meters, for the varieties of smaller dimensions. When the plants are grown as a bush, they must be at least 4.5 meters apart.
Pests and diseases
These plants, and their fruits, are rarely affected by pests or diseases. The most widespread problems are those related to fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, scab, leaf spots and anthracnose. They can be induced above all by unfavorable environmental conditions, with an excessive percentage of humidity or water. They must be contrasted with a timely intervention that allows to change the environmental conditions and to eliminate the problem, using special antifungal products to be sprayed on the plant.
Medlar - Mespilus germanica: Variety
There are different varieties and cultivars of medlar, which can be successfully cultivated and which differ in the size of the plant and the fruits produced, as well as in the fruiting period and in the presence or absence of seeds inside the fruits. The most widely cultivated varieties are the Royal, Nottingham, which has brown fruits with a size of about 4 cm and the Dutch, with fruits that have a color tending to rust red. The most widespread Italian varieties are the Precoce, the Nespolo d'Olanda, which has fairly small fruit and the Grosso di Germania, which stands out for its large, sweet-tasting fruit. Usually medlars grown in Italy are distinguished by the size of the fruits, with a classification that includes small fruits, medium fruits and large fruits.