Quinces are old-fashion shrub-like trees that represent the only remaining genus of the Cydonia oblonga species. According to the Agroforestry Research Trust, a nonprofit charity dedicated to tree, shrub and perennial crop research, the weeping quince is thought to have originated somewhere in Asia, although it has been naturalized in much of the Mediterranean, where the tree has been cultivated for centuries. In the United States, the weeping quince has been used by Midwestern homesteaders and farmers alike throughout the 19th century. Today, however, the tree is rare except as a reminder of a bygone era when farming was a major way of life for Americans.
According to ART, the native region of the quince is not precisely known. The tree can be found thriving in the wilds of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkestan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In addition, the fruit is referenced in both Greek and Roman mythology.
The weeping quince tree produces small globe-shaped fruit that, according to Purdue University's Horticulture division, is hard and often bitter. Although the acidic fruit is rarely eaten fresh it is used extensively in jams, jellies, marmalade and as filling in pies. The Purdue website states that although the internal flesh is the only portion of the plant that is used in preserves and similar dishes, the entire fruit is cooked during processing. Quince also is used in the production of wine and medicine as a digestion aid.
The weeping quince is a small bushy tree, 12 to 20 feet at maturity, that produces young wool covered branchlets, according to EcoCrop, a branch of the United Kingdom's Food and Agriculture Organization. The quince fruit is golden yellow and very fragrant. EcoCrops states that the fruit ripens in late autumn and produces poisonous seeds. Quinces are hardy trees and will produce their first harvest after two years. Overall, EcoCrop asserts that the tree will produce for about 25 years.
Quinces grow well in full sun and, according to Cornell University's Horticulture Department, they will perform in wet soils. The flowers need cross-pollination to bear fruit. The CU website states that quince trees should be planted in protected areas were they will not be damaged by extreme changes in temperature or exposure to the elements such as snow and frost.
Common Pests and Disease
According to ART, quince trees are relatively free from pests and disease. However, they do suffer from the occasional leaf blight, which can be treated with an application of Bordeaux mixture. Other pests and diseases include brown fruit rot caused by standing water around the base of the tree, fireblight, codling moth and oriental fruit moth.