Elisabeth C. Miller Library logo Miller Library Home UW Botanic Gardens Home UW Botanic Gardens Home book graphic

3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195 | (206) 543 0415 | Open: | Library Schedule

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Cydonia oblonga, Chaenomeles

We have a quince bush and we'd like to make quince jelly, but the fruit this year was very small and seedy. We made some jelly, but with the seeds mixed in, since there wasn't much fruit outside the seed part. Last year, I think we had more quinces and they were larger. We also have a very old pear and an apple tree, and they both had less fruit this year too.
Is there anything I can do to get more fruit from the quince bush? Should it be cut more? Or less? More water? Fertilizer?


Is your quince bush the ornamental quince, botanical name Chaenomeles, or the edible quince, Cydonia oblonga? The fruit of ornamental quince is edible, but tends to be less known for its flavor than that of Cydonia oblonga. To help you determine which quince you are growing, take a look at the following information.

A local gardener's website, Paghat's Garden, describes ornamental quince and the use of this plant's fruit:
"Having been developed for the pre-spring and early spring flowers, not all these shrubs fruit well. But there are also a few cultivars developed in northern Europe with fruit production in mind. Generally the market-variety quinces are trees of a different genus altogether, namely Cydonia oblonga. But species of Chaenomeles were formerly categorized as Cydonia, and their tart fruits are also edible."
Plants for a Future Database also describes ornamental quince.

There is an essay on edible quince (Cydonia oblonga) by Joseph Postman in Arnoldia (Harvard Arboretum publication), vol. 7 no. 1, which includes some cultural information. The amount of fruit production may vary depending on weather and other environmental conditions.

There are also discussions on the difference between the edible and ornamental quinces and their fruit, such as this one from University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, excerpted here:
"The big fuzzy fruit are the real quinces (Cydonia) and is the only member of its genus. The flowering quinces (eg., Chaenomeles) were once classified with the Cydonia quince trees. I think some Chaenomeles were called 'Japonica', but the 'flowering quince' name seems the norm now. Unfortunately the abundance of chaenomeles, and use of the name 'quince' for the Chaeonomeles contributes to the under appreciation of quince tree and its fruit."
Another excerpt, from a nursery source:
"Like apricot and peach pits, European quince seeds contain cyanide... Most people know that they must never cook apricot or peach pits when making jam or jelly, but most do not know that this also applies to true quince seed. Although often called Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles japonica is a very different plant, and it is these fruit that most North Americans are familiar with, although the flavour of the fruit is nowhere near as rich and aromatic as that of the true quince. The seeds of the flowering quince are not particularly dangerous, and may be cooked with the fruit, but I still would not recommend doing so."

Cornell University also discusses the difference:
"Don't confuse these quinces with several other quince-like species grown for ornamental purposes. There are many varieties of Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) and common flowering quince (C. speciosa, C. lagenaria), attractive shrubs bearing showy pink, red or orange flowers in early spring.
Most of these ornamentals produce fruits that are hard and nearly inedible, though they have a high pectin content and are occasionally mixed with other fruits in jellies and preserves."

Sometimes, weather conditions conspire to create a smaller yield of fruit in a given year. You might have had fewer bees and other pollinators. There could have been rain or cold weather and frost at the same time that the plant was in flower, and this could have disrupted pollination. Other factors might be a change in the amount of sun exposure, or an excess of nitrogen-heavy fertilizer which will result in lots of leafy growth and few flowers and fruit.

Date 2017-12-08
Link to this record only (permalink)

Didn't find an answer to your question? Ask us directly!

Browse keywords

Search Again:

May 31 2018 13:14:08