Flowering crabapple is the broad-sense term for plants from the genus Malus (Rosaceae) that have a small fruit diameter (≤5 cm). They have colorful, attractive blossoms (purple, red, pink, white, etc.) as well as fruits of outstanding ornamental value of purple, red, pink, orange, yellow, and green, among others (Fiala, 1994). Because of their rich cultural heritage and strong environmental adaptability, flowering crabapples have been widely cultivated in our landscapes and gardens. In China, flowering crabapples, peonies, plum flowers, and orchids have been elected as the four greatest spring blossoms (Wang, 2010). Unlike some members in the rose family with mutation into double flowers, such as roses (Bendahmane et al., 2013; Dubois et al., 2010), flowering cherries (Zhou et al., 2008), and ornamental peaches (Cao et al., 2009; Fang et al., 2008; Werner et al, 2001), double-flowered mutations of flowering crabapples are rare, resulting in only a few double-flowered cultivars available in today’s market. The book Flowering Crabapple by Fiala (1994) recorded nearly 1,200 flowering crabapple cultivars with less than 5% of them were semidouble or double-flowered. Most of these double-flowered cultivars were developed in North America, including the outstanding ‘Branzam’ (rose type double-flowered), ‘Van Eseltine’ (pink doubles), and ‘Kelsey’ (red doubles). Woody ornamental plant breeding is extremely challenging and each new flowering crabapple cultivar took 10 or more years to be introduced. Although many professional and independent breeders are working on flowering crabapple breeding in the United States, China, and several other countries, the yield of new cultivars has been limited in recent years. There is still a scarcity of double-flowered flowering crabapples. In the past 20 years, only two new double-flowered flowering crabapple cultivars, ‘Spring Bride’ (Spongberg, 1996) and ‘Jarmin’ (Jarmin, 2003), were released into the U.S. market.
It is important to breed new flowering crabapple cultivars with multiple-layers of petals and novel flower shapes because these traits are rare and desireable. The emergence of new flower traits should increase the diversity and extend bloom duration of flowering crabapples. It is especially beneficial to establish special flowering crabapple collection gardens in China to bring more visitors. ‘Fenghong Nichang’ (Note: Nichang in Chinese refers to the elegant dress worn by a beautiful princess) is a new flowering crabapple cultivar released from the flowering crabapple breeding program of Nanjing Forestry University in Jiangsu, China. It is an excellent double-flowered flowering crabapple cultivar with three to five layers of wrinkled petals.
CaoK.WangL.FangW.ChenC.2009Genetic linkage maps constructing and markers linked with pistil development and double petal gene in peachActa Hort. Sinica36212601262
DuboisA.RaymondO.MaeneM.BaudinoS.LangladeN.B.BoltzV.VergneP.BendahmaneM.2010Tinkering with the C-function: A molecular frame for the selection of double flowers in cultivated rosesPLoS One52e9288
FialaJ.L.1994Flowering crabapples: The genus Malus. Timber Press Portland Oregon
JarminM.2003Crabapple tree named ‘Jarmin’. U.S. Patent Application No. 09/997044
Royal Horticultural Society2007Royal Horticultural Society colour chart. 5th ed. RHS Media Press London UK
WernerD.J.WorthingtonS.M.SnellingL.K.2001Peach tree named ‘Corinthian Pink’. U.S. Patent Application No. 09/143339
ZhouC.L.ChenF.MiaoJ.G.HanD.D.LiC.L.2008Identification of 19 Cerasus Cultivars on Esterase Isozyme in QingdaoJ Northwest Forestry Univ.23312601262