Backyard Mayhaw Production

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After promoting and discussing the planting of peaches earlier, I have had several folks call and talk about their landscapes and problems they have had growing peaches.

Most typically, soils that stay too wet are the most common problem for would be peach growers.

So, have you considered planting a mayhaw tree? Mayhaws have the notoriety of growing in swamps and often without full sunlight.

It was two gentleman named Haywood Quarles and Donald Capps of Burke that got me started on mayhaw fruit. Mr. Quarles gave me a few germinated seedlings of mayhaws that I planted at my previous residence on Lancewood Circle north of Hudson almost 15 years ago.

Though Mr. Quarles has passed away, his family still maintains his orchard and sells fruit. Mr. Capp’s wife, BJ, puts up some of the best Mayhaw jelly in the county, or so I have been told.

Though not in a low-lying area, they thrived and did well. They bloomed and bore a couple of fruit the spring before we moved to a farm in Clawson.

Mayhaws are native to Angelina and surrounding counties. In fact, they are native to the entire southeastern United States. Mayhaws are in the rose family and the hawthorn genus. They are medium-sized trees that produce white blooms in the spring. Unlike peaches, you will need space for two mayhaws as they will need to cross pollinate for production.

Mayhaws produce a small apple-like fruit that is usually less than 1 inch in diameter. They usually bloom in late February and sometimes sustain crop loss due to late winter freezes. The fruit usually ripens in early May.

The trees are also valued as an ornamental species. Mayhaw trees are cold hardy and, if properly conditioned, they can survive temperatures as low as -25 ºF. Mayhaws are often found along river bottoms and along streams and in swamps.

Common insect pests of Mayhaw include aphids, apple maggot, flat headed apple borers and white flies. Plum curculio is the most debilitating insect.

Regarding disease, the most common that I have noticed is the cedar-apple rust. While no products exist to combat this frequent issue, proper pruning and other management practices can help overcome it.

Although they are often found in low areas subject to perennial flooding, Mayhaws perform best in well-drained soils. Historically, Mayhaws have been collected from native stands; however, there are many

named cultivars. If my memory serves me right, Donald Capps told me the largest Mayhaw tree he ever saw was on top of a hill in, what was then, property of Temple Inland.

Others have told me about how they would gather the floating fruit from creeks and sloughs after they had ripened and fallen into the water.

With two mayhaws planted in a landscape that may not be optimal enough for most finicky fruit species, it should not be too long before you enjoy their wonderful spring blooms and late spring fruit.