Meet the ‘Bragania’ or Eriolobus trilobatus, a somewhat schizophrenic small tree found in the Levant, Anatolia and Thrace. The name Bragania hails from the Evros region of north east Greece, it’s more literal English names include Lebanese wild apple, erect crab apple or three-lobed apple tree. In Hebrew it’s called חֻזְרַר הַחֹרֶשׁ.
This refugee from troubled lands has arrived as a welcome and attractive migrant adding interest to London’s increasingly diverse urban forest.
Apparently the fruit is sweet and tasty, something to look forward to in October, right now in late September it is still green, I believe they will become golden yellow when ripe.
It’s rarity in the wild has translated into a confusion of names in English and possibly in the languages of its native lands – an arc of mountainous areas from northern Israel, through Lebanon, Syria, southern and western Turkey ending in a few isolated European pockets in Greece and one in Bulgaria.
It is found at altitudes of 1000m on Mount Lebanon in the Horsh Ehden (إهدن حرش) nature reserve, a remnant forest also home to the magnificent Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). In fact the Lebanese claim this refuge to be the last protected forest community of Eriolobus.
Further south, the tree is found in Israeli Upper Galilee and on the slopes of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights.
In scientific circles it’s known as Eriolobus trilobatus, and horticulturalists know it as Malus trilobata. It is the only species in the Eriolobus genus, but it vies for attention among well known and cultivated siblings in the Malus (apple) genus. One Greek academic paper explains the taxonomic history outlining previous classifications including as a Hawthorn or a Pear or even a Service Tree:
The taxonomic status of the species was rather ambiguous in the past as has been discussed by Browicz (1969), and the nomenclature chronologically included the following names: Crataegus trilobata Poir., Pyrus trilobata (Poir.) DC., Sorbus trilobata (Poir.) Heynh., Eriolobus trilobatus (Poir.) M. Roem., Cormus trilobata (Poir.) Decne. and Malus trilobata (Poir.) C.K. Schneid.
As well as the vagaries of botany, the Bragania is a tree that reflects the politics of disputed lands, the shifting sands of national and religious borders. These conditions may help protect it from harm, but may also cause it’s local demise where the pressure on land and resources becomes too much.
I hope it will be safe on the streets of London…
Links (all in English)
- Eriolobus in North East Thrace overview page (PDF)
- Academic paper about the distribution and conservation of Eriolobus in Thrace (PDF)
- Wikipedia page about the Horsh Ehden nature reserve in Lebanon
- Eriolobus page from the Bulgarian Red Data Book
- Israeli flora entry about Eriolobus
If you want to take a closer look at Eriolobus here’s where I found one.
GPS coordinates: 51.5704, -0.1219; Latitude and Longitude: 51°34’13.5″N 0°07’19.0″W.
Google Street View: