A tree up to 20 ft high, with a wide-spreading head; young shoots at first more or less covered with loose white hairs which soon fall away, leaving them glabrous, shining brown; thorns up to 2 in. long. Leaves oval, diamond-shaped, or obovate; always wedge-shaped at the base, pointed at the apex, the upper half shallowly lobed, finely toothed, the teeth gland-tipped; 1 to 3 in. long, 3⁄4 to 2 in. wide; at first downy above, becoming glabrous and glossy; hairy on the midrib and chief veins beneath; stalk 1⁄2 to 1 in. long. Flowers white, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. diameter, borne during May in corymbs 2 to 3 in. across; flower-stalks and calyx more or less shaggy with whitish hairs; stamens ten, anthers yellow; styles three or four. Fruit pendulous, red, rarely yellow, globose but rather flattened at the top, 1⁄2 in. or less in diameter.
var. phoenicea Palmer C. rotundifolia Moench, not Lam.; C. coccinea var. rotundifolia (Moench) Sarg. – This distinct variety is quite glabrous except for slight down on the upper surface of the young leaves. Fruit lustrous red.
C. chrysocarpa is native of N. America from S.E. Canada to New York and westward into the Mississippi basin etc. The var. phoenicea, however, is confined to the eastern states. It is one of many species that have been grown as the C. coccinea of Linnaeus, and it was under this name that it appeared in previous editions of this work and in the first edition of Sargent’s Manual of the Trees and Shrubs of North America. The name C. coccinea is now rejected as ambiguous, since Linnaeus applied it to two quite distinct species, now known as C. pedicellata and C. intricata. Many other American thorns have been grown as “C. coccinea”, including C. mollis, C. ellwangeriana and C. holmesiana.
C. jackii Sarg. – A small shrubby tree to about 10 ft high, confined to parts of Quebec province. Leaves oval to broadly ovate, sharply toothed, with shallow, indistinct lobes, truncate to broadly wedge-shaped at the base, 1 to 11⁄2 in. long. Flowers with five to ten stamens and yellow anthers. Fruit dull red, juicy, broadly oblong to slightly egg-shaped, about 1⁄2 in. long, with two to three nutlets. Native of southern Quebec.
C. jonesiae Sarg. – A tree to about 20 ft high, branchlets downy when young, becoming glossy orange-brown and armed with spines 2 to 3 in. long. Leaves broadly oval to obovate, up to 4 in. long, wedge-shaped at the base, sharply toothed and indented above the middle with pointed lobes; dark, glossy green above, downy beneath at least when young. Flowers up to 1 in. across; stamens ten with large rose-coloured anthers. Fruit bright red and juicy, 3⁄5 in. long, with two or three nutlets. Native of E. Canada and northern New England.
The following species, placed by Palmer in the series Brainerdianeae, may also be mentioned here:
C. dunbarii Sarg. – A small shrubby tree to 15 ft high, with a dense, rounded crown. Leaves oval to ovate, shallowly lobed, hairy above when young, becoming dark glossy green. Flowers with ten stamens, anthers red, sepals edged with glandular teeth. Fruit with a thin flesh and three to four nutlets with cavities on the inner surface. Discovered by John Dunbar on the Genesee River, near Rochester, New York.