‘Er Qiao’ Flowering Crabapple

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  • 1 College of Biology and the Environment, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210037, China
  • | 2 Qingdao Municipal Supervision Consulting Co., LTD, Qingdao, Shandong 266000, China
  • | 3 Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602
  • | 4 College of Forestry, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210037, China; Co-Innovation Center for Sustainable Forestry in Southern China, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210037, China; and Yangzhou Crabapple Horticulture Limited Company, Yangzhou 225200, China

China is the distribution center of Malus and has 22 of the 35 worldwide species (Li, 1999). Chinese crabapples (Malus) were introduced to North America and Europe in the 18th century and were planted widely. European and American horticulturists have bred many ornamental crabapple cultivars, which significantly enhanced the popularity of ornamental crabapples (Dirr, 2010; Jefferson, 1970). Among the popular ornamental crabapple cultivars, less than 10% have double or semidouble-flowers (Zhang et al., 2021); less than 5% of 1200 flowering crabapple cultivars are semidouble or double-flowered (Fiala, 1994);

China is the distribution center of Malus and has 22 of the 35 worldwide species (Li, 1999). Chinese crabapples (Malus) were introduced to North America and Europe in the 18th century and were planted widely. European and American horticulturists have bred many ornamental crabapple cultivars, which significantly enhanced the popularity of ornamental crabapples (Dirr, 2010; Jefferson, 1970). Among the popular ornamental crabapple cultivars, less than 10% have double or semidouble-flowers (Zhang et al., 2021); less than 5% of 1200 flowering crabapple cultivars are semidouble or double-flowered (Fiala, 1994); and later blooming and double-flowers cultivars are extremely scarce. In China, the controlled breeding of modern crabapples began in the 1990s. In 2021, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China reported that 78 new cultivars of flowering crabapples were bred and released by Chinese horticulturists. Recently, Chinese horticulturists successfully selected some double- and semidouble-flower cultivars, including M. ‘Fenghong Nichang’, M. ‘Xiang He’, M. ‘Yangzhi Yu’, M. ‘Luokeke Nushi’, M. ‘Fen Balei’, and M. ‘Zi Dieer’ (Fan et al., 2019; Hu et al., 2021; Jiang et al., 2020; Zhang et al., 2021; Zhou et al., 2019, 2020). Most of them bloom in early April, and the flowering duration was short. A new flowering crabapple cultivar, Er Qiao, with double-flowers and late bloom time is reported.

Origin

In Fall 2011, seeds were collected from nine cultivars: M. ‘Purple Prince’, M. ‘Indian Summer’, M. ‘Red Jade’, M. ‘Harvest Gold’, M. ‘Donald Wyman’, M. ‘Sugar Tyme’, M. × zumi ‘Calocapa’, M. ‘Qianceng Jin’, and M. ‘Cinderrella’. Growing at the National Crabapple Germplasm Genetic Center (NCGGC), located in Yangzhou, Jiangsu (lat. 32°42′N, long. 119°55′E). The NCGGC is located in a subtropical monsoon climate with four distinct seasons. The average annual temperature is 14.9 °C, and the average annual precipitation is 1000 mm. Seeds were sown in Spring 2012 after cold stratification and germinated, then seedlings were transplanted and grown in the seedling field. In 2015, a unique clone, named ‘Er Qiao’, was selected based on large diameter pink and white double flowers and 10 to 15 petals. Its corolla was a deep cup-shaped, which increased its ornamental value. In Fall 2015 to 2017, clonal liners were regenerated yearly through budding with M. hupehensis as the rootstock. Sixty budded seedlings were obtained. From our observation in 2015 to 2020, flower shape and color traits of those grafted siblings were the same as the unique clone, ‘Er Qiao’. The plant had healthy and vigorous growth, good adaptability to high temperature, and less occurrence of diseases and insect pests.

Description

‘Er Qiao’ is an excellent flowering crabapple cultivar for later blooming and double-flowers. In Yangzhou (Jiangsu, China; lat. 32°42′N, long. 119°55′E) and surrounding areas, the budbreak of ‘Er Qiao’ is in early March, its leaves sprout in mid-March, and starts to fall at the end of September. The plants of ‘Er Qiao’ grow vigorously, with upright brown-green branches. After budbreak in spring, the new leaves are green without anthocyanin coloring. The mature leaf is serrated. The leaf blade is ≈7.4 to 7.8 cm in length, 3.6 to 4.0 cm in width, and length-to-width ratio is 2.1. Its petiole is ≈2.8 to 3.2 cm in length. ‘Er Qiao’ leaves are medium sized compared with that of other crabapple cultivars. This new cultivar has an umbel inflorescence with double-flowers (10–15 petals). The diameter of the blooming flower is ≈3.7 to 4.1 cm, and the corolla is deep cup-shaped. The petals are oval, with overlapping arrangements and prominent veining. The outside of the petal is red-purple (RHS, 68B), the center and inner portion of petals are white (NN155D), and the back color of petals is red-purple (N66C). This is why we named it ‘Er Qiao’ (er qiao in Chinese means two beautiful colors, white cheeks with pink blush, as the face of a pretty girl). The red fruit (Fig. 1) is small and persistent to January or February and is a flat rectangular spherical shape. The calyx is absent, and the fruit peduncle is long. The fruit surface is glossy without powder, and the fruit flesh is light yellow.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

The flowering stages and blossom and fruit of M. ‘Er Qiao’. (1) The bloom stage of inflorescence in ‘Er Qiao’: (A) initial color stage; (B) balloon stage; (C) initial blossoming stage; (D) full blossoming stage; (E) final blossoming stage. (2) Flowering petal dynamics: (F) front view of blooming flower; (G) back view of blooming flower; (H) front view of fading flower; (I) back view of fading flower. (3) Full bloom branches. (4) Mature fruit.

Citation: HortScience 57, 5; 10.21273/HORTSCI16494-22

Compared with the similar cultivars of M. ‘Van Eseltine’ and M. ‘Yangzhi Yu’, the new cultivar Er Qiao has abundant flowers and later bloom (≈10 Apr.). The color of unopened bud, the outer side of the petals, and other aspects of ‘Er Qiao’ are unique, as listed in Table 1.

Table 1.

The characteristics among M. ‘Er Qiao’, M. ‘Van Eseltine’, and M. ‘Yangzhi Yu’.

Table 1.

Propagation

‘Er Qiao’ has strong growth and shows good adaptability to high temperature, which is suitable for planting in the north of Hebei (lat. 36°01′N–42°37′N, long. 113°04′E–119°53′E) to the north of central Fujian (lat. 23°70′N–27°92′N, long. 116°10′E–120°22′E). Grafting is the main method for reproduction, and the season August to September. The plant has been primarily propagated by budding with M. hupehensis as the rootstock (diameter >0.5 cm). ‘Er Qiao’ prefers full sun, flat land, a good depth of loose and fertile, rich, sandy soil with good drainage. The heading height for the small open trees is generally 0.8 to 1.5 m, with three to five lateral branches reserved for directional cultivation. Shaping is performed during the dormant period and early spring. ‘Er Qiao’ has strong resistance to disease and insect pests.

Availability

‘Er Qiao’ is available through the Nanjing Forestry University and Yangzhou Crabapple Horticulture Limited Company (http://flowering-crabapple.njfu.edu.cn).

Literature Cited

Contributor Notes

This project was funded by the Modern Agriculture Project of Jiangsu Science and Technology (BE2019389).

Y.P. is the corresponding author. E-mail: pengye@njfu.edu.cn.

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    The flowering stages and blossom and fruit of M. ‘Er Qiao’. (1) The bloom stage of inflorescence in ‘Er Qiao’: (A) initial color stage; (B) balloon stage; (C) initial blossoming stage; (D) full blossoming stage; (E) final blossoming stage. (2) Flowering petal dynamics: (F) front view of blooming flower; (G) back view of blooming flower; (H) front view of fading flower; (I) back view of fading flower. (3) Full bloom branches. (4) Mature fruit.

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