1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Medlar

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MEDLAR, Mespilus germanica, a tree of the tribe Pomeae of the order Rosaceae, closely allied to the genus Pyrus, in which it is sometimes included; it is a native of European woods, &c., from Holland southwards, and of western Asia. It occurs in hedges, &c., in middle and south England, as a small, much-branched, deciduous, spinous tree, but is not indigenous. The medlar was well known to the ancients. Pickering (Chron. Hist. Pl. p. 201) identifies it with a tree mentioned in a Siao-ya ode (She-King, ii. 1, 2), 827 B.C. It is the μεσπίλη of Theophrastus and Mespilus of Pliny. The Latin mespilus or mespilum became in Old French mesle or medle, “the fruit,” meslier, medlier, “the tree.” The modern French nèfle is from a corruption nespilum of the Latin. The German Mispel preserves the original more closely. The well-known fruit is globular, but depressed above, with leafy persistent sepals, and contains stones of a hemispherical shape. It is not fit to eat until it begins to decay and becomes “bletted,” when it has an agreeable acid and somewhat astringent flavour. Several varieties are known in cultivation. The large Dutch medlar, which is very widely cultivated, has a naturally crooked growth; the large, much-flattened fruit is inferior in quality to the Nottingham, which is a tree of upright habit with fruits of about 1 in. diameter, superior to any other variety. There is also a stoneless variety with still smaller fruits, but the quality is not so good.

The medlar is propagated by budding or grafting upon the white-thorn, which is most suitable if the soil is dry and sandy, or on the quince if the soil is moist; the pear stock also succeeds well on ordinary soils. It produces the best fruit in rich, loamy, somewhat moist ground. The tree may be grown as a standard, and chiefly requires pruning to prevent the branches from rubbing each other. The fruit should be gathered in November, on a dry day, and laid out upon shelves. It becomes “bletted” and fit for use in two or three weeks. The Japanese medlar is Eriobotrya japonica (see Loquat), a genus of the same tribe of Rosaceae.