Malus × brevipes (Rehd.) Rehd.

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Credits

Julian Sutton (species), Nick Dunn (cultivars)

Recommended citation
Sutton, J. & Dunn, N., 'Malus × brevipes' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/malus/malus-x-brevipes/). Accessed 2021-07-30.

Genus

Synonyms

  • Malus floribunda var. brevipes Rehd.
  • Malus brevipes (Rehd.) Rehd.

Glossary

clone
Organism arising via vegetative or asexual reproduction.
hybrid
Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).
variety
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.

Credits

Julian Sutton (species), Nick Dunn (cultivars)

Recommended citation
Sutton, J. & Dunn, N., 'Malus × brevipes' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/malus/malus-x-brevipes/). Accessed 2021-07-30.

Very like the well-known Japanese Flowering Crab Malus × floribunda, probably also a hybrid. Malus × brevipes differs from M. × floribunda in that it has a shorter, denser and somewhat stiffer habit. The leaves are smaller with more closely serrate margins, and are never lobed. The flowers are smaller and somewhat paler. The fruits are bright red, subglobose, 1.5 cm diameter, slightly ribbed and borne in profusion on upright pedicels. (Fiala 1994Grimshaw & Bayton 2009Rehder 1920).

USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8

RHS Hardiness Rating H6

Malus brevipes is a familiar name in horticulture, but the status of most plants propagated under this name is less clear. We treat it here as a hybrid, Malus × brevipes. Rehder’s treatment of this plant, first as a botanical variety, then as a full species (Rehder 1920, 1926) seems with hindsight to have been a mistake. It was described from a single tree at the Arnold Arboretum grown from seed (presumably cultivated) labelled Pyrus sieboldii received ‘probably’ (Rehder 1920) from the Imperial Botanic Garden, St Petersburg in 1883 (Arnold Arboretum 2020; Rehder 1920). Vegetatively propagated specimens are still grown at the Arnold, the oldest from 1901 (33 cm basal diameter, 2015 – Arnold Arboretum 2020). It is completely unknown as a wild plant, and is to all intents and purposes a cultivar; we cannot be sure whether more than one clone exists in North America under this name.

Vegetatively propagated plants are offered in the UK nursery trade as M. brevipes and as M. brevipes ‘Wedding Bouquet’, but are rarely seen in commerce elsewhere. We have been unable to establish the circumstances of introduction(s) to Britain, although the large amounts of material passing between Kew and the Arnold in the years following the First World War suggest this as a likely route. It is not possible to say whether it crossed the Atlantic as vegetative material or seed; nor can we say whether or not British and American stocks look identical – they have probably never been grown together. It is not even clear whether ‘Wedding Bouquet’, by far the most widely grown of these plants and an excellent ornamental tree (described under ‘Cultivars T-Z’) is identical to all other British ‘brevipes’. However, there is circumstantial evidence that ‘Wedding Bouquet’ is not simply clonally propagated M. × brevipes under a new name: it was grafted from an old tree at Batsford Arboretum which shows no evidence of itself being a graft; while records are incomplete, Matthew Hall thinks it most likely to have been a seedling given perhaps by Kew (M. Hall pers. comm. 2020).

All this leaves M. × brevipes as no more than a horticulturally insignificant old hybrid cultivar, and the concept should be left to sink into obscurity.