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Malus pumila Mill.

Modern name

Malus pumila Mill.


Pyrus malus var. paradisiaca L.; P. m. var. pumila (Mill.) Henry; Malus pumila var. paradisiaca (L.) Schneid.; M. sylvestris var. paradisiaca (L.) Bailey

In botanical and garden literature the name M. pumila Mill, has been used in a very wide sense, to denote the orchard apples, the naturalised trees and escapes deriving from them, and the wild downy-leaved species that they most resemble. Miller himself, as is quite clear from his description, intended M. pumila as the botanical name for the French paradise apple, which he believed to be a distinct species ‘for it never rises to any height, the branches are weak, scarce able to support themselves, and this difference is permanent when raised from seeds’ (Gard. Dict., ed. 1768). The French paradise apple was used in France, in Miller’s day and later, as a stock for the production of miniature trees. But in Britain, said Miller, it was not common in gardens, being ‘only proper for trees which are kept in pots, by way of curiosity, for these do not continue long’. The French paradise is reputed to have been brought to France in the 16th century from Armenia, where according to an old belief the Garden of Eden had been situated – hence paradise apple. Miller also mentions the less dwarfing stock known as the Dutch paradise apple, but it is clear from the text that he regarded the French variety as the true paradise apple.

The botanical name M. pumila derives from the phrase-name published by Caspar Bauhin in his Pinax (1623). – ‘Malus pumila quae potius frutex quam arbor’ (the dwarf apple that is rather a shrub than a tree). This phrase was cited by Miller under M. pumila, as it had been earlier by Linnaeus under his Pyrus malus var. paradisiaca.

It is difficult to see how the French paradise apple can be regarded as representative of the orchard apples, which are a complex hybrid race deriving partly from species which are acknowledged to be distinct from M. pumila even by those authorities who interpret this species in a wide sense. Miller himself did not place the garden apples under M. pumila. Indeed, he did not place them positively under any species but suggested with hesitation that they might belong to M. sylvestris – ‘I have not distinguished the Apples from the Crab, as distinct species, though I have never seen Apples produced from the seeds of Crabs.’

Following the Flora Europaea, the name M. domestica is used for the orchard apples in this edition. In that work the name M. pumila is not used for any wild species, but is given a subordinate position under M. dasyphylla.

For M. pumila var. niedzwetzkyana see M. niedzwetzkyana. For various crab apples such as ‘John Downie’, which are usually placed under M. pumila, see the section on hybrid clones starting on p. 714. See the same section for ‘Elise Rathke’ (M. pumila pendula).



Other species in the genus