In the Grow

Mystery plant likely a flowering quince

October 1, 2019

Flowering quince

Flowering quince blooms in early spring
Photo credit: T.G., Noble County

Q: Can you help me identify this shrub that flowered this spring? We’ve lived on this property for over 10 years but have never noticed it because it is on a part of the property that is not mowed. I only noticed it because of the bright red flowers. – T.G., Noble County

A: This looks to be one of the flowering quince species, most likely the common flowering quince Chaenomeles speciosa. Although the plant is not native, it was commonly planted years ago primarily for its attractive flowers in early spring, occasionally producing a few sporadic flowers in summer or fall. The plant is a tangled, thorny shrub that can be a good barrier plant but a challenge to prune due to the wicked thorns. Because it blooms on old wood, it should be pruned after flowering if the plants need to be brought down in height.

The plant sometimes yields edible fruit, but this is not the quince species that is grown commercially. The fruits are fragrant but quite tart and can be processed into jelly. There are some additional close relatives, including Japanese flowering quince (C. japonica), which is less commonly found, and the hybrid Chaenomeles x superba, which has several double flowered cultivars in the trade.