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Mountainash Hybrids for Fruit and Beauty

These attractive trees are easy to grow and produce lots of fruit.

'Ivan's Belle' hybrid mountainash
'Ivan's Belle' hybrid mountainash is attractive, easy to maintain, and bears nutritious fruit.
Mountainash, a popular tree in North Dakota, is best known for its orange clusters of berries in fall. Those fruits are for the birds, right?

Not necessarily. Did you know mountainash is related to apple and pear? They are all in the rose family. In Eastern Europe, special varieties of mountainash are grown for fruits used in making preserves, pastries, juices and wine.

The famous Russian breeder Ivan Michurin crossed mountainash with other species to develop quality fruit trees with ornamental value. ‘Ivan’s Belle’ is a cross between mountainash and hawthorn (see photo). Its fruits are wine red in color and the size of a small cherry.

‘Ivan’s Beauty’ is a cross between mountainash and aronia. Its pink-tinted blossoms produce purple fruits, each the size of a marble.

Studies at the University of Wisconsin have determined Ivan’s trees to be hardy to Zone 3 (suited for all of North Dakota). The trees transplanted easily and started blooming the year after being planted. The trees grew only 8–10 feet tall, making them easy to manage.

The researchers praised the beauty of the flowers, fruits and their deep green foliage. The trees did not experience any major pest problems. The trees appeared to resist fire blight, a major problem among fruit trees in the rose family.

The fruits were too bitter for eating fresh but would be excellent for processing. A leading nursery reports that crops can be expected within two to three years and eventually reach up to 30 pounds per tree. Highest yields are attained when more than one variety of mountainash is planted.

If your focus is strictly on fruit production, the University of Wisconsin researchers recommend the aronia shrub as a better option, especially for mechanized production.

Studies from North Dakota State University agree that aronia shows tremendous potential for fruit growers in our state. Acres of aronia have been planted here in recent years.

Nevertheless, these mountainash hybrids may be an attractive, low-maintenance tree for a home landscape. The trees are easy to maintain and will produce lots of nutritious fruits.

Ivan’s trees can be ordered from One Green World, Raintree Nursery, Northwoods Nursery and other online nurseries.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, November 22, 2016.

Contributing sources:

One Green World. https://onegreenworld.com. Accessed November 2016.

University of Wisconsin. Uncommon fruit: Observations from Carandale Farm. http://uncommonfruit.cias.wisc.edu. Accessed November 2016.

Photo courtesy of Sodo Expertai, http://sodoexpertai.lt.

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