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A shrub or a small tree up to 35 ft high; branchlets fairly densely lenticellate, more or less downy when young; winter-buds dark crimson to almost black, glutinous, outer scales glabrous except for a few marginal hairs. Leaves with five to seven pairs of leaflets; rachis broadly grooved above, downy, or glabrous except for some glands and short hairs near the insertions of the leaflets. Lateral leaflets oblong or oblong-lanceolate, the longest about 21⁄4 in. long and 7⁄8 in. wide, rather abruptly pointed, serrate, sometimes rather jaggedly toothed, glabrous and bluish green above, whitish and glabrous or slightly downy beneath (more densely so on sterile shoots). Inflorescence flat-topped, much branched, up to 6 in. wide, its branches and the pedicels more or less hairy. Flowers white, about 3⁄8 in. across. Receptacle nearly glabrous outside, sepals ciliate. Petals rounded. Styles three or four. Fruits bright scarlet or vermilion, about 7⁄16 in. wide.
Native of eastern N. America from Newfoundland to New York, perhaps farther south, west to Wisconsin and Iowa (for var. groenlandica, see below). It is fairly closely allied to S. americana, and where the two occur in the same region, S. decora grows at somewhat higher altitudes. It is said that intermediates or hybrids occur in the wild, but S. decora can usually be distinguished by its bluish green relatively broader leaflets (length:breadth ratio 2-3:1 against 31⁄2-5:1 in S. americana, according to Jones), by being acute or shortly and abruptly acuminate at the apex, and by its larger flowers and fruits. Although the two species have long been considered distinct, the fact that the epithet americana has been applied by botanists to both species has inevitably caused confusion in gardens, where S. decora has generally been known as S. (or Pyrus) americana, and indeed often still is (1979).
S. decora makes in gardens a small, bushy-crowned tree, valued more for its broad trusses of large fruits than for its autumn-colour, though the leaves do turn to orange and russet on some soils. The fruits ripen in August and are soon taken by birds in country gardens, especially in a dry season.
S. americana var. groenlandica Schneid