DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Leaves simple, alternate, obovate to oblanceolate, with wedge-shaped bases, 1 to 4 inches long, leathery, glabrous, and glossy; petioles stout, 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. Winter twigs slender to moderate in diameter, armed with sharp unbranched thorns 2 to 7 inches long (absent in variety inermis); leaf scars small, half-rounded to crescent-shaped, with 3 bundle scars. Buds globose to subglobose with about 6 glabrous, fleshy, and usually reddish scales; lateral buds often nearly equal to the terminal in size. Flowers perfect, regular, in showy corymblike clusters, appearing with the leaves in spring; petals 5, white, roundish. Fruit a pome, red when ripe, about 3/8 inch in diameter, with 1 or 2 seeds and thin, dry flesh, persisting in winter.
SIMILAR TREES: The unlobed, glossy leaves and long thorns easily distinguish this species from other Iowa trees.
IOWA DISTRIBUTION: Native in the southern half of the state, sometimes planted.