by Marilyn Odneal, Horticulture Adviser
(Mountain Grove) – Tart and seedy pomegranates are one of my favorite winter holiday season fruits. Up to now, I had only seen two pomegranate shrubs – one in Albuquerque, N.M., and the other in a container at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The common pomegranate, Punica granatum, is winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-11 while the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum var. nana, is winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-11.
So you must understand my surprise when I was told that there was a pomegranate shrub living outdoors in Mountain Grove. Mountain Grove is presently in USDA Hardiness Zone 6. What’s more is that it has been living here for three years and this year it is showing many lovely blooms. Bunny Brown, a local plant enthusiast, planted a pomegranate at her house after she received a start from a relative who lived in Arkansas. “I wasn’t sure what it would do since I had never seen a pomegranate around here, but I thought I would give it a try,” says Bunny. She did admit to covering it up with a blanket when the winter temperature drops very low.
The Missouri Botanical Garden reports that the species will not produce any fruit when grown in areas such as St. Louis (although some cultivars such as Nana may fruit). The plants require dry, arid conditions with temperatures in the mid 90s to produce fruit. Bunny noticed one flower last year, but has not seen it produce any fruit as yet. We will have to see if the flowers turn into fruit this time.
Pomegranate comes from the Latin words pomium (apple) and granatum (many seeded). They are multi-stemmed deciduous shrubs that grow 6-20 feet tall and are native from southern Europe to northern India. Pomegranates have traveled to put down roots in other warm, dry places including parts of the southern U. S. In these places the orange-red flowers bloom throughout the summer and develop into round, yellow tinged with red, rind fruits 2-4 inches in diameter. Inside the rind you find fleshy, juicy, sacs (arils) that surround the seeds that are edible. The fruit is also used to produce grenadine, a syrup used to flavor drinks.
So we are positively puzzled over this Mountain Grove pomegranate and will be watching it from now on. Will it survive the next winter? Will it bear fruit? Only time will tell.
Direct comments or questions concerning this column to Marilyn Odneal via email at MarilynOdneal@missouristate.edu; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500. Visit our Web site at http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu.