Common apple

Pommier sauvage d'Europe

Malus domestica Borkh.Rosaceae (rose family)

Origin: Asia (cultivated variety)


Common apple, especially when pruned, is a small tree with a low, broadly spreading, dome-shaped crown.

Read more about Tree, Bark, Twigs


Leaves are oval, with variably shaped bases and tips, and small, sharp teeth along the edges.

Read more about Leaves


Flowers have 5 white petals often flushed with pink, yellow anthers, and are borne in clusters in spring.

Read more about Flowers


Fruits are large fleshy apples in a wide variety of colours with a persistent calyx (the sepals) at the tip.

Read more about Fruit


Common apple is a small to medium sized tree, up to 15 m (50'), with a low, spreading, dome-shaped crown, especially when pruned.

Like all apples and pears, common apple has twigs with many short shoots bearing compact scars.

Bark on young trees is reddish grey with conspicuous pores (lenticels).

Older bark is greyish-brown and scaly with thin, flaking plates.

Twigs are reddish-brown (young twigs have white woolly hairs) with small lateral buds pressed against the twig.

Buds are reddish-brown and covered in pale hairs; terminal buds are up to 8 mm (5/16") long.

Return to top of page


Leaves are oval, 4 - 10 cm (1 1/2" - 4") long, with small sharp teeth along the edges.

The undersides of the leaves are covered with grey hairs.

Leaves on new long shoots are arranged alternately on the branch as are short shoots that bear clusters of leaves early in the season. .

In the fall, leaves turn yellow.

Return to top of page


Flowers are borne in clusters in early spring.

Flowers are 3 cm (1 1/8") across, with 5 white petals often flushed with pink, and yellow anthers. The sepals are hairy on the outerside.

Return to top of page


Fruits are apples, 6 - 12 cm (2 3/8" - 4 3/4") across, in a variety of colours and patterns.

Fruits have a persistent calyx (sepals).

Fruits mature in the fall and drop to the ground.

Return to top of page


Origins of common apple

Common apple (Malus domestica) was derived more than 3000 years ago from wild apples growing in Central Asia, especially what is now Kazakhstan. At one time there were more than 10,000 different varieties each with unique properties including size, taste, texture, color, and hardiness. A display and video on the origins of the apple can be seen in the Royal Ontario Museum's Life in Crisis: the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity.

The spread of apple trees likely started with traders on the silk road. However, in the United States it is usually attributed to the legendary Johnny Appleseed, Jonathan Chapman (1774-1845), who travelled on foot from farm to farm providing apple seeds to establish orchards.

Common apple has occasionally escaped cultivation and formed natural hybrids with native species of crabapple.

Commercial use

In addition to fruit production for fresh and dried fruit, juice, vinegar and cider, the wood of many species of apple (Malus spp) is used for carving, fuel, and for providing flavouring smoke to some foods.

Return to top of page

Common apple IN TORONTO

Common apple's place in Toronto's urban forest

Common apple trees are encountered in parks where there were once farms, orchards, or private homesteads. Apple trees planted in a straight line may indicate an old orchard or a lot line. Trees also grow from discarded apple cores. If you have an apple tree on your property you may wish to visit the website of Not Far From the Tree to learn how you might get help collecting and using your fruit.

Landscape value and potential for home planting

Common apple provides not only a handsome display of spring flowers but also an annual crop of edible fruit. Only trees propagated by grafting can reliably produce fruit with specific characteristics.

Common apple trees grow best in sunny sites with moist soil.

Pests and diseases: Apples are susceptible to fire blight, a disease caused by bacteria that is native to North America and affects members of the rose family (Rosaceae). Fire blight is particularly harmful to pear and apple trees, killing branches and blossoms. Cankers appearing on the trunk indicate a serious infection that may kill the tree. For more infromation on fire blight see Agriculture Canada factsheet .

Return to top of page

WHERE CAN I SEE Common apple?

Find trees on Tree Tour maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

Return to top of page


Return to top of page