Crabapple Tree

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
The crabapple is a small, deciduous tree found primarily in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere. These trees typically grow to be 4-12 m tall, and possess distinct white, pink, or red petals when in bloom. Crabapples are self-sterile, and thus completely rely on insect pollinators to transport their pollen. Despite this, crabapples cross-pollinate often and have hybridized over generations to the point where a distinct species within the genus cannot be identified.
Mary DuBois and Oluwatobi (Tobi) Akindoju
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
9.92 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.15 m

The bark of the crabapple is variable, but is typically greyish-brown in color. The texture of the bark is smooth when young, but becomes thin, scaly and vertically cracked later in life.
Twigs & branches
The brances droop and exhibit shaprly pointed ends. The leafstalks on the branches have no glands and thorns are not typical—usually only seen in older species. The twigs and branches grow at a medium rate, with spur shoots that bear flowers with a very slow growth rate. Twigs have thin to medium thickness and display a brown/reddish color.
Most crabapple have green to dark green leaves, while a few exhibit reddish/purple leaves. The leaves occasionally have a bronzed tint during the summer. The leaves are simple and have a serrated shape; however, sometimes the leaves are more crenate, displaying a scalloped or rounded tooth edge. The leaves are brachidodromous, with a main vein extending down the center of the leaf from which smaller veins stem towards the sides of the leaf. The leaves are typically arranged in a pinnate manner, meaning there are leaflets on either side of the stem that usually appear in pairs. The tree is deciduous, so it loses its leaves in the winter.
Reproductive Structures
Crabapple flowers have white, pink or red petals with darker buds that bloom during April and May. Flowering does not occur to the same extent every year. Instead, crabapple trees alternate between years of heavy, showy flowering and fruiting and years of only moderate flowering and fruiting.
The fruits of crabapple trees are round and fleshy and typically red, yellow, orange, or green in color. These fruits belong to the pome variety and attract mammals. They tend to be beetween 1/4 and 3/4 inches in diameter and mature in dense, showy clusters appearing the months of September or October until December.
  • Our in the Winter
  • Malus in the Spring
  • Our Malus in the Summer
  • Malus in the Fall
Natural range of distribution: 
Crabapple trees are found in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, including Kazahkstan, Russia, and China. Crabapples also inhabit the temperate regions of North America since they were introduced to the Western Hemisphere in the 18th century. They tend to inhabit relatively open areas with lots of sun exposure and good air circulation. These trees do not have a particular soil preference. They do best in moist, well drained and slightly acidic soils; however, they are also highly adaptable to poor soils and can endure various soil acidities, soil compaction, drought, pollution, wounding, and heavy pruning. This adaptability gives crabapples a high urban tolerance.
Origin, history, and uses: 


The crabapple Tree originated in the mountainous regions of Central Asia, specifically in modern day Kazakhstan.

They became popular cultivars (trees used for selective breeding) and spread throughout the continent via the Silk Road

Romans brought the species from Asia into Europe, where the species experienced rapid diversification into over 800 distinct species. It became the cultivar of choice in Europe (particularly in Britain) and was eventually brought into North America, where they are currently found in abundance


Because of their sour taste, crabapples are usually not eaten raw by humans; they are sometimes used as condiments

Often used for cooking flames for smoked foods, crabapple wood releases a pleasant aroma while burning very slowly.

Malic and tartaric acids within crab apple have traditional medicinal uses, specifically to neutralize the acidic effects of gout and indigestion

Commonly used for patios and street lining for decorative “warm glow” in springtime.

The phenology, the cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena related to—in this case—plant life, of the crabapple is typical of deciduous trees. Crabapples flower in April and May and exhibit ornamental fruits in the early fall, which may persists and remain on the tree throughout the winter. These trees tend to alternate between years of heavy, showy flowering and fruiting and years of only moderate flowering and fruiting. Due to cross pollination and hybridization, there are many varietes of Maluses which exhibit variations from the typical crabapple phrenology described above. For example, some varieties have fruits that last throughout the winter and some varieties alternate clearly in their blooming pattern year to year, while others have a less drastic alternation pattern.

Works Cited

Clapp, Hansen, and Siegel. “American Crabapple (Sweet Crabapple).” Guide to Deciduous Trees of the Northeast. Brandeis, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <….
Ellingson, Katherine. “Crabapple Information Chart.” Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology 35.8 (2014): 937-60. JF Schmidt. J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.
Gilman, Edward F., and Dennis G. Watson. “Malus Spp.: Crabapple.” UF/IFAS Extension EDIS. University of Florida, 2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.
“Malus - Crabapple (Rosaceae).” (n.d.): n. pag. Plant Facts. Ohio State University. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.
“Malus Domestica.” Bio Web. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 2007. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.
“Malus.” Malus. Ohio State University, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.
Schneid, C. K. “Pacific Crabapple, Malus Fusca.” Native Plants PNW. N.p., 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <>.
Picture Sources: 
Media and Arts

               The Malus’ Journey to North America

               The sun hit my bark at just the right angle, causing the usually dull and greyish brown color to radiate a seemingly golden hue. The midday breeze passed delicately over my budding leaves, and my branches drooped and swayed to the rhythm of the wind. The familiar sounds of birds once again filled the air, and the buzzing sounds of my friends and pollinators, the bumble bee, filled me with delight. It was spring again (April to be specific) and all was right with the world.

               My name is Malus X. As a Crab Apple Tree, the beginning of spring always holds special significance to me. After being dormant for months as I tried to survive the cold, harsh New Haven winter, I eagerly await the coming of the warmth and life of the spring season. This time of year also causes me to reflect on how I got to where I am today. When I was just a sapling, my father used to tell me stories. Passed down from generation to generation, father to son, this story told of the great journey that brought our family and genus to North America.

               The story begins in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, with my ancestor, Malus I. He was a sturdily built tree and thrived in the cooler temperatures of the region. He was also very productive, and created many fruits that became popular among the humans in the region for medicinal use and consumption. Over time, Malus I and his descendants were traded across the Silk Road, and ended up in parts of Western Asia and Europe. The trip over land was arduous, and many trees did not make it, but in the end we arrived in the West.

               The land was under control of the Roman Empire, and it was here where another of my ancestors, Malus IV, made a name for himself. The Romans were impressed by his ability to withstand the elevation and climate of the Caucus Mountains. The Romans brought our genus to Britain, where we experienced a Renaissance, according to my father. Here, my ancestor Malus VI, became known for her beautiful and showy spring time display, with bright red, pink, and red flowers. At this point, the humans began to cultivate us for decoration of their gardens and consumption of our fruits. We enjoyed great reproductive success.

               My grandfather, Malus VIII, was the first Crab Apple Tree to land in North America. Brought by colonists to this new and strange land, he was able to thrive in the temperate Northeastern weather. And only two generations later, here I am on the campus of Yale on a sunny April afternoon. Although I am not native to the United States, it is moments like this that make me proud to call this country home.