Malus prunifolia (Willd.) Borkh.
Synonyms: Pyrus prunifolia Willd.
A small tree with downy young shoots and ovate or broadly oval leaves, 2 to 4 in. long, half or more than half as wide, unequally toothed, downy beneath. Flowers white, 11⁄2 in. across, fragrant, produced in April in umbels of six to ten; calyx with long, narrow, woolly lobes. Fruits round or slightly ovoid and elongated, 1 in. in diameter, yellowish or red, crowned with the persistent calyx; calyx-lobes on the fruits united at the base into a short fleshy tube, so that the free part of the calyx seems to be inserted on a short pedestal. Bot. Mag., t. 6158.
There is some doubt about the origin of this crab. It was in cultivation in England in 1758 and said to have come from Siberia, though it is not a native of that region; nor indeed has it ever been found wild in its typical state. Closely related trees have, however, long been cultivated in China for their fruits (see var. rinki below).
var. rinki (Koidz.) Rehd. M. pumila var. rinki Koidz.; Pyrus ringo Wenzig; Malus ringo Sieb.; M. asiatica Nakai – This variety differs from the typical M. prunifolia only in being slightly more downy, with shorter flower-stalks and usually pinkish flowers. It is cultivated in China for its fruits, which have an apple-like flavour and are quite pleasant eating. Wilson found it growing apparently wild in western Hupeh. It appears to have been originally introduced to European gardens by Siebold from Japan. In that country it was once widely cultivated for its fruits but has been displaced by varieties of European origin. Bot. Mag., t. 8265.
There are red- and yellow-fruited forms of var. rinki. The great attraction of the latter is its abundant, gracefully pendent, bright yellow fruits, which hang from the lower side of the branches in long, crowded rows, and make it one of the handsomest of our yellow-fruited hardy trees. But it is perhaps surpassed by ‘Golden Hornet’, described in the section on hybrids.
Rehder explains that the Japanese names ‘rinki’ and ‘ringo’ both derive from the Chinese name for this apple – ‘linkun’ – and that the name ‘to-ringo’, meaning Chinese apple, is also used in Japan only for this variety. Unfortunately, Siebold used ‘toringo’ as the specific epithet for the crab now properly known as M. sieboldii (PI. Wils., Vol. 2, pp. 293-294).