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A bush or small tree of rounded habit, with slender, dark brown branches; branchlets woolly when young. Leaves rather hawthorn-like, 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. wide, broadly ovate in the main, but with the margins always cut up into several lobes which are themselves toothed, base rounded or heart-shaped, dark green above, with scattered hairs when young, paler and downy beneath; stalk downy, reddish, up to 1 in. long. Flowers pure white, about 3⁄4 in. diameter, produced in June five to seven together on lax open corymbs 2 or 3 in. across, each flower on a slender, downy, pinkish stalk 1 to 11⁄4 in. long; calyx very woolly, the lobes narrow, pointed. Fruits roundish oval, 1⁄2 in. long, yellowish changing to red, the calyx fallen away. Bot. Mag., t. 7423.
Native of N. Italy, and very rare both in the wild and in cultivation. There are few more charming small trees than this in June, the long, slender shoots of the previous summer being then clothed with abundant short twigs, each with its cluster of white flowers. The leaves are very similar in form to those of the wild service (Sorbus torminalis) only much smaller. Its fruit is not particularly bright, but the foliage often turns a brilliant orange-scarlet before falling. It is very suitably placed as an isolated specimen on a lawn. Plants at Kew were introduced by H. Groves from near Florence in 1886, but the oldest now in the collection by the Palm House Pond, dates from 1892. There is a larger one by the Isleworth Gate, received from the Arnold Arboretum in 1930.
The taxonomy and status of M. florentina is discussed by K. Browicz in Fragmenta Floristica et Geobotanica, Vol. 16, 1, pp. 61-83 (1970). Browicz upholds the theory, first advanced almost a century ago, that M. florentina is a hybrid between Sorbus torminalis and Malus sylvestris (which, as interpreted by him, includes the orchard apples and their escapes). He publishes the name × Malosorbus for this intergeneric hybrid and places M. florentina under it has × M. florentina (Zuccagni) Browicz.