What is Chaenomeles?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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Chaenomeles is a genus of dicotyledonous shrubs in the Rosaceae, or rose family, that are often used ornamentally. The genus consists of three species that are native to Korea, China, and Japan and commonly known as flowering quince. These plants grow to a height of 9.8 feet (3 m), with spiny branches producing white, pink, and red-orange five-petaled flowers. The fruit borne is a pome called mugua, or wood fruit, and ripens in autumn. Leaves of these plants are quite simple, though they have serrated edges.

Flowering quinces are considered an Asiatic ornamental shrub. Their popularity in Asia rose due to their use in bonsai, which is an art of growing trees. The species Chaenomeles speciosa is a part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and is used for the treatment of arthritis, muscle cramping, and edema. It is a Chinese herb believed to soften the liver and alleviate indigestion.

The three hardy shrub species of this group are C. cathayensis, which is native to China; C. japonica, which is native to Japan; and C. speciosa, which is native to both China and Korea. Each of these species has fruit of varying sizes and shapes. The fruit of Chaenomeles cathayensis is the largest and pear shaped, while the other two species have smaller, apple-shaped fruit.


These garden shrubs are mainly grown against walls or in borders. The flowers of the shrubs blossom best in sunny areas with partial shade. For the plants to grow to their maximum height, the soil must be well drained and friable. During the months of March through May, the plants of the Chaenomeles genus grow an abundance of flowers.

The genus is prominent in Asia for its many uses, such as bonsai and therapy, but it has become increasingly popular in North America and Europe as well, primarily because the plants are easy to grow to add color to a garden. They are also used for the aromatic fruits they bear, which are edible and can be cooked to make jams, marmalade, and jellies, but are rarely eaten raw due to their very bitter taste. These fruits contain many vitamins and are used to make liqueurs and traditional medicines. The fruits’ properties are believed by some to treat tendon and abdominal pains. These deciduous shrubs are also a food plant utilized by the larvae of brown-tails and Bucculatricidae, moths belonging to the Lymantriidae family.


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