Flowering Quince, called Japan Quince and Japonica during the 19th Century was a popular garden shrub during the 1800’s in Itawamba County. During early April, the scarlet blooms of this thorny shrub is the tell-tale sign of an old home place site in the rural areas of the county.
Many 19th Century botanical and gardening books write of this shrub being a popular ornament of antebellum gardens.
An 1855 book entitled The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America by A.J. Downing has the following to say about the shrub:
"The Japan Quince is a low thorny shrub, with small dark green leaves. It is the most brilliant object in the shrubbery during the month of April, the branches being clothed with numerous clusters of blossoms, shaped like those of the quince, but rather larger, and of the brightest scarlet. The fruit which occasionally succeeds these flowers is dark green, very hard, and having a peculiar and not unpleasant smell."
When riding through the hills and valleys of the county during April witnessing the presence of this flowering shrub more than likely marks the spot of an old homestead garden.
Photograph by Bob Franks