Aronia arbutifolia “Brilliantissima” vs. straight species

sah67 (zone 5b - NY)
October 9, 2019

I’m looking to add a few new Aronias to my property. The description I’ve read online of the “Brilliantissima” cultivar, explains that it differs from straight species A. arbutifolia by “ (1) being more compact, (2) producing more lustrous foliage with superior red fall color and (3) producing larger, glossier and more abundant fruit.“

I took a look at a few specimens of each today at local nurseries, and although none had colored up fully for fall, the “Brilliantissima’s” did appear to have cleaner, shiny foliage and a nice vase-shaped structure, but were also all very leggy with little to no foliage below the top third of the plant.

The straight species arbutifolias I saw had more speckling/spotting on the leaves, a “messier”/scragglier overall shape, but also had significantly more foliage coverage further down the plant, which was a plus (although not as much as A. Melanocarpa.

Can anyone who has grown both confirm that the description of the differences is accurate beyond what I saw today?

I’d say fall foliage color and overall foliage coverage are my overall priorities, with fruit and overall shape less important. For that reason, I’m leaning toward the straight species right now, unless anyone has evidence that “Brilliantissima” really is “superior” for color.

Comments (3)

  • Embothrium

    Correctly A. x prunifolia 'Brilliant' it is apparently represented in commerce by seed raised stock rather than a single, universally grown clonal cultivar. So a lack of complete uniformity is to be expected. In addition to plants grown under the name not being quite like pure A. arbutifolia.

  • sah67 (zone 5b - NY)

    The UConn horticulture database lists “Brilliantissima” as a true cultivar of A. arbutifolia, and separate from the A. x prunifolia hybrid:

    All other sources I’ve found refer to A. x prunifolia having dark purple berries, like A. melanocarpa, whereas all the “Brilliantissima’s” I’ve seen have bright red berries like A. arbutifolia. Do you have a source that explains the possible hybrid origin for “Brilliantissima“ rather than it being a species cultivar?

  • Embothrium

    Print and web publications of the RHS in Britain present A. x prunifolia 'Brilliant' as the correct combination. Consistent with this all live material of "Brilliantissima" I have examined in person here has had intermediate growth and foliage, with fruits - which although red or reddish - were not pure cherry red. So I support statements that material of a hybrid nature is offered under the name. Of course, it could be that not all stock that has ever been offered as the selected form has been of hybrid origin. With there having been a percentage of nonhybrid versions grown domestically that have not been seen in Europe.

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