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BOKE was originally a Chinese word that means “tree melon” since it has melon-like berries.
Chaemomeles japonica is indigenous to Japan and it is called KUSABOKE (= plant type Boke) since it is a small tree (height: 30-40cm) like a plant. Chaemomeles speciosa is a deciduous tree, that is said to have been brought from China or Korea in the Heian Period (794-1191). This tree was brought as medicine since its berries are utilized as Chinese medicine.
In the Edo Period (1603-1867), Boke was bred and cultivated as a garden or a Bonsai tree and breeders created many cultivars. They also used Kasaboke for hybridizing Boke cultivars, so Japanese quince cultivars are hybrids between the species at the present day.
 
Growing Japanese quince is popular especially in Niigata Prefecture.
This picture of the Japanese quince was taken at the satoyama in Kurokawa, Kawasaki City during our family hike last weekend.
 

Japanese name: BOKE; Latin name: Chaenomeles speciosa, Chaenomeles japonica
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Blooming season: March-May Height: 1-2m The ones in our garden haven’t bloomed yet.
To see photos of various species, click here.

 

 

Boke (Quince)

 

By LINDA INOKI

 

She will let through
The fence of quince bushes,
Him who gives her the pains of love.

IN BLOOM

 

By Matsuo Basho (1644-94) translated by R.H. Blyth
in “Haiku” (Hokuseido Press)

The quince bush is an excellent image of the painful pleasures of love, for although it bursts with tender red blooms, it is also armed with vicious thorns. Both the wild species, called kusa-boke, as well as old cultivated varieties, known as boke, are grown for their attractive spring flowers, which hasten to open before the leaves. Flower colors range from scarlet to coral, and one lovely type bears white flowers flushed with pink. Some varieties are not long-lived, but even young specimens can produce small, fragrant apple-like fruits, which make pleasant preserves. British gardeners have long called these popular shrubs “japonicas” from the official name of the kusa-boke, which is

Chaenomeles japonica.

 

The Japan Times: Jan. 24, 2002

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