Mespilus canescens
Common Name: Stern's medlar 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Arkansas
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 12.00 to 18.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy


Best grown in moist, fertile, well-drained loams in full sun to light shade. Reportedly performs well in gritty/sandy soils. Site in locations protected from strong winds.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Mespilus canescens, commonly known as Stern's medlar, is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub or small tree in the rose family that typically grows to 15-20' tall. This is a critically endangered endemic species that is only known to grow in a single 22 acre site in the Grand Prairie region of eastern Arkansas where about 25 trees/shrubs are present. The growing site is private property, but the plants are now protected through a conservation easement granted by the property owner to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. This site is known as the Konecny Grove Natural Area. Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is the Missouri Botanical Garden where ongoing research is being conducted. Initial identification placed this plant in the genus Crataegus or possibly Aronia. Subsequent research placed the plant in the genus Mespilus (Phipps 1990) with a common name of Stern's medlar.

Showy 5-petaled white flowers cover this plant with bloom in May. Flowers are followed by spherical fruits (to 3/8" diameter) which mature to a deep glossy red when ripe. Fruit is a pome with an open end that is crowned by persistant calyces. Bletted fruits are reportedly edible. Elliptic green leaves ( to 1 1/2" long).

Notwithstanding the identification and naming of this Arkansas shrub in 1990 as a new species in the genus Mespilus, some experts currently believe (based in large part upon post-1990 genetic research) that this species may in fact be a hybrid between Mespilus germanica (the European medlar which is common to woodland and scrub areas from southeastern Europe to central Asia) and an unknown North American species of Crataegus (hawthorn), and accordingly should be renamed Crataegus x canescens. Disputes over the true identity of the shrub are ongoing and yet to be resolved.

This plant was discovered by Jane Rita Ellenbogen Stern (1918-1989), Arkansas conservationist.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for this fruit.

Specific epithet from Latin means graying/pubescent.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Endangered species that is difficult to obtain in commerce. Attractive flowering shrub/small tree.