This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Jonathan Primrose wants to know "the botanical name of the shrub that produces the fruit which is known throughout New England as Honeysuckle apple. It ripens I think in June, is very sweet and delicious".
From a number of correspondents who have written about the honeysuckle apple, we select the following, as giving some points not offered by others whose notes have been already given.
Mr. Jacob Manning, of Reading, Mass., says: "In the March number of the Gardeners' Monthly, you have, under the head of ' Scraps and Queries,' remarks on the ' Honeysuckle Apple.' It is called here ' Swamp Apple.' It is white to pinkish white. It is sometimes eaten by children, and is harmless. It grows here exclusively on ' Azalea viscosa,' or white swamp honeysuckle. The Azalea nudiflora, pink flowering, is not a native of the swamps near me, so I have not seen it, or that variety of the Azalea. It is a fungus; at the spot where it appears, the bark dries, it is well to cut back the branch to a point below where the swamp apple appears. The Azalea will bear any amount of cutting back. It is really a proper plant to make hedges of. It would afford a mass of fragrant white flowers in June, of larger size than the flower of Japan quince. It is as hardy a plant as the latter. I predict, in the near future, its use as a hedge plant, also the red-barked Cornel or Cornus sanguinea both are native plants, bear pruning well, and are adapted to a variety of soils.
" The day, or fashion of close pruning to an exact line on the top and sides of all sorts of hedges, evergreens and all, ought to pass by. A more lasting hedge is secured by less frequent and close pruning to exact lines. It has a tendency to weaken it in some places. To keep a hedge healthy, it must make and retain a new growth on all sides. I had 3,500 feet of evergreen hedges, and see plainly what is best for my hedges".
From Mr. E. Holley, Hudson, New York, we have the following: "In your February number, Jonathan Primrose wants to know the botanical name of Honeysuckle Apple. This same shrub is also known by the following names: Upright Honeysuckle, Pinxter Flower, and Swamp Pink. This is an old friend of my boyhood, having often gathered, in western Berkshire, Mass., its beautiful, rosy-purple, sweet-scented flowers, and also gathered the fruit under the name of Honeysuckle Apple, which, at that time, I enjoyed very much. The name of this shrub is "Azalea nudiflora." Flowers in May before the leaves are fully grown. Quite common in the forests of the Northern States".
If our correspondent had said "Wood Honeysuckle," instead of merely "Honeysuckle," we should not have had the common climbing honeysuckle in mind when we gave the reply. But we are on the whole pleased that we had the wrong plant in view as it has brought out a large number of correspondents, with a variety of information of great value. We select from among them all the following, and give our best thanks to the correspondents whose favors it does not seem necessary to use:
Mr. T. S. Gold, of West Cornwall, Conn., says: 'The 'Honeysuckle apple' also called' May apple is produced by Azalea nudiflora. It is a kind of enlargement of the calyx; appears while the plant is in blossom or soon after and soon disappears. It is a cluster of lobules like the old fashioned tomato. The color is pale green and it has a sweetish and acid taste, cool and refreshing in a hot day. They are eaten freely by the children and are used for pickling. Gray gives ' swamps ' as the habitat, yet here it grows mostly in dry land, natural to the chestnut. It is perhaps our finest native shrub; as its abundant bloom, varied shades of pink and purple, lights up some forest glade, while the air is laden with its refreshing perfume, one of the chief elements in the aroma of spring made up from the bursting leaf and flower buds of shrub and tree".
Mr. E. S. Miller, Wading River, N. Y., says: "The shrub Jonathan Primrose refers to and desires the botanical name of is, Azalea nudiflora L. It is known on Long Island by the common name of 'Wild Honeysuckle,' (another case of common names misleading). Hence 'Honeysuckle apple' and 'Swamp apple' as they are called here. I have taken for granted that they were an excrescence formed by the sting of an insect. I cannot agree with Jonathan Primrose in that 'they are sweet and delicious".
"J. R. S.,"Rahway N. J., communicates the following: "The botanical name of the shrub that produces the fruit known throughout New England as Honeysuckle apple ' is Azalea nudiflora. It is not a fruit but a sort of fruity excres-ence. Here it is called Honeysuckle apple and is eagerly sought for by children, though but a poor watery tasteless thing. Among the Germans of Pennsylvania it is called Pfingsten apple, probably because of its ripening at Whitsuntide. I have never seen this excrescence on any other variety of Azalea although we have growing here A. viscosa glauca and nitida".
And Dr. W. R. Gerard, New York, adds: "Page 55 of Gardeners' Monthly, the 'Honeysuckle apple ' (so-called) is a fungus, Exobasidium Vaccinii, Wor., and the shrub upon which it is found is Azalea viscosa".
Mr. Warren H. Manning, Reading, Mass., in his communication remarks that it is often called "Swamp apple " in that section; and Mr. Bassett, of Hammonton, N. J., gives '-May apple".
The "Honeysuckle Apple," spoken of by your correspondent in February number Gardeners' Monthly, is probably the monstrous growth of the flower bud of Azalea nudiflora. This common shrub is generally called "wild or mountain honeysuckle"here-abouts, and the large flower buds are very frequently malformed, dropsical and much enlarged by the attacks of a fungus (Exobasidium Azaleae), first detected and described by Prof. Peck, of New York State.
Dr. Darlington has described the "honeysuckle apple," very well in his "Flora Cestrica," but he was ignorant of their cause. State College, Pa.