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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - November 12, 2012

From: Woodbury, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Wildlife Gardens, Trees
Title: Mystery tree with yellow fruit in MN
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

There is a tree at my workplace, about 8' tall, with small, pea-sized yellow berries right now (Oct. 2012). The berries are attractive to Cedar Waxwings, and the tree has small leaves that are simple, lance-shaped when young, and also palmate when larger. They have yellow to purplish fall color. My workplace is in Woodbury, MN (near St. Paul). Thank you for your help!

ANSWER:

Although we cannot give you a definitive answer without a photo or sample, we do have a few ideas that you can investigate further.

Cedar Waxwings are known to prefer the fruit of Pyracantha (firethorn), Crabapple and Hawthorn trees.  All these are members of the Rosaceae family and produce a pome fruit that can be red, orange or yellow.  They all have similar, very typical flowers in the spring as well. 

Because of the size of your tree, it is more likely to be a small crabapple or hawthorn than a firethorn (which would not likely be hardy in your area and is more like a shrub than a tree). There are species of crabapple and hawthorn are native to Minnesota and many ornamental cultivars that would be hardy (and have yellow fruit) as well.

You describe the leaf as becoming palmate as it matures, so that would lead me to guess that your tree is a hawthorn cultivar (have a look at this image of the Downy Hawthorn leaf, and this one) as there is not that much variation in the crabapple tree leaves.  If your tree has thorns, it is a hawthorn: if it doesn't, it could still be.  There have been quite a few thornless cultivars developed for the landscape trade, as the native tree has quite deadly thorns!

Good luck identifying your tree!

 

From the Image Gallery


Downy hawthorn
Crataegus mollis

Prairie crabapple
Malus ioensis

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