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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Ringo no hana (apple blossom)
By LINDA INOKI
The opening of the apple blossoms is a magical moment in spring. The combination of pink buds, white petals and fresh green leaves is simply beautiful, and even at this early stage the flowers give off the sweet fragrance of apples. Apple trees belong to the Rosaceae or rose family of plants, a large family that ranges from small creepers such as the wild strawberry to trees such as the ornamental cherries and evergreen loquat. Many members of this family have flowers with five petals and five sepals, toothed leaves, and edible fruits. Curiously, apple flowers are often borne in clusters of five blooms, and the central bud, which is held a little higher than the others, usually opens first. If you look at the base of the flower, you can clearly see the receptacle that, after pollination, will swell to form the fruit. I picked the apple blossoms pictured above from a wild tree growing in a hedgerow; commonly known in English as a "crab apple" (Malus sylvestris) . In autumn these trees produce masses of small, yellow and very sour fruit. Obviously, orchard varieties of apple, which have been developed over many centuries, provide us with much bigger, sweeter and juicier offerings!