by Marie Austin

Blackthorn is a densely branched thorny shrub growing to a height of 1-5 m. The bark on the stem is blackish-brown and the lateral twigs have a terminal spine. The buds are small and ovate; the flower buds arc generally borne in dense clusters on short twigs. The whitish flowers appear in April — May before the leaves. The fruits, known as sloes, ripen in September-October and are astringent, becoming tastier after the first frosts. The brown, pitted seed is difficult to separate from the pulp.

Cultivated varieties bear fruits from 5 to 11 cm across. These are either pear-shaped – C. o. pyriformis or apple-shaped – C. o. maliformis and contain a large number of brown seeds measuring 4-6 mm.

The Romanus rose reaches 1-2 m in height and has numerous shoots densely covered with thorns of varying size. The buds arc ovate and reddish. The flowers, bloom from the middle of .June to August. The large, broad hips are brick red, turning purplish red when ripe in October, with long, erect sepals at the tips.

It is a native of Asia Minor, Iran and Caucasia, where it grows on richer soils in open broadleaved woods. It tolerates moderate shade. Cultivated varieties of this species arc widely planted in the parks and gardens of central and western Europe.

Nowadays it is widely cultivated in western and central Europe for its large, decorative and fragrant flowers, and it is completely frost-resistant. This species also includes varieties with double red as well as white blooms, e.g. aubro-plena’, ‘Alba’ and `Albo-plena’. This rose has been crossed with other roses to produce several ornamental hybrids and varieties.

Propagation is by means of root suckers; cultivated varieties may be grafted onto hawthorn. The medlar interbreeds with hawthorn and several hybrids between the two are known.

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