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Malus × eleyi (Bean) Hesse

Modern name

Malus eleyi Hesse


Pyrus × eleyi Bean; M. × purpurea f. eleyi (Bean) Rehd.

A hybrid crab raised by Charles Eley of East Bergholt, Suffolk, from M. niedzwetzkyana crossed with pollen of M. spectabilis. It is a small tree, its young shoots downy, both they and the leaves being reddish purple like those of the mother tree, but of a brighter and not so dark a hue. Leaves ovate, with a short, sharply pointed apex, rounded or wedge-shaped at the base, finely toothed, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 212 in. wide, downy beneath especially on the dark purple midrib and veins; stalk dark purple, 12 to 1 in. long; stipules linear to awl-shaped, toothed, 14 in. long. Flowers in apple-like clusters and of apple-blossom shape, each 114 in. wide, of a rich vinous red. Fruits rich purplish red, conical, 1 in. long, 58 in. wide at the base, each on a slender stalk 112 in. long, the apex hollow when the calyx falls away.

The cross between M. niedzwetzkyana and M. spectabilis was made before the first world war and a large number of seedlings were raised. It was described in 1920 (Gard. Chron., Vol. 68, p. 85) and put into commerce in Britain by Messrs Notcutt shortly after. It received an F.C.C. when shown by them in October 1923 and in May of the same year had been accorded an A.M. for its flowers, when shown by Mr Eley. So far as is known the Eley crab is represented in cultivation by a single clone, descended from the seedling finally selected for naming and propagation. But it is puzzling that in the original description (as in the one reproduced above from previous editions) the fruits are said to be conical, and certainly are so in the fruiting spray figured in Vol. 2, plate 25 of the Seventh Edition. But as usually seen in gardens the fruits are roundish, and not unlike the morello cherries to which they were likened by Mr Eley himself. In both forms the calyx may be persistent or more or less deciduous. The difference in shape of fruit may not be significant, for den Boer has shown conclusively that in the USA, plants of the Eley crab known to be propagated by grafting, from the same individual, may differ strikingly in their fruits according to the locality in which the trees are grown. Plants in the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, produce small, ovoid fruits on long stems, but grafts from these, grown by Den Boer at Des Moines, Iowa, ‘promptly refused to produce the typical “Eleyi” fruit and instead brought forth a fine crop of oblate to round and larger fruit on shorter stems’. Possibly the variation from egg-shaped to cherry-shaped is a fluctuating character. In ‘Neville Copeman’, which is a seedling from ‘Eleyi’, there is a marked difference in shape of fruit and in length and thickness of fruit-stalk, even on the same tree.

With regard to the parentage of ‘Eleyi’, Rehder doubted whether M. spectabilis was the pollen-parent, and suggested that it was more likely to have been M. sieboldii or some related species or hybrid. He placed it under M. × purpurea.

According to den Boer, the crab grown in the USA as ‘Eleyi’ is indistinguishable from ‘Jay Darling’, which is a renaming of a crab-apple which originally came from France around 1904 and was in commerce in the States at one time under the name Malus cerasifera atropurpurea. It is presumably of the same parentage as ‘Eleyi’.



Other species in the genus