Origin: Temperate areas of the northern hemisphere
Most crabapples are small trees with irregular crowns.Read more about Tree, Bark, Twigs
Leaves vary in shape from oval with finely toothed unlobed edges to triangular and lobed.Read more about Leaves
Flowers are white or pink, and borne in clusters.Read more about Flowers
Fruits are round to oval fleshy apples.Read more about Fruit
Branches have many spur-like, stubby, short shoots with compact sets of budscale scars (see Glossary).
Twigs have scattered pores (lenticels) and reddish-brown buds that are usually covered in pale hairs. The lateral buds are pressed against the twig.
Leaves vary in shape from oval with finely toothed unlobed edges to triangular and lobed (click image to see both shapes).
Apples are native to temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. There are approximately 40 species. Humans have been breeding apples for thousands of years through hybridization and the selection of desirable characters to create thousands of cultivars. Most of the eating apples derive from Malus domestica, common apple.
The term crabapple has been used as a catch-all for nearly all other apples, especially ornamental varieties. In fact, crabapple hybrids and cultivars derive from a few species, especially Siberian crabapple (Malus baccata, also called flowering crabapple) and European crabapple (Malus pumila, also known as Malus sylvestris). For example, Dolgo crabapple is a hybrid between Malus baccata and Malus prunifolia that was developed in Russia in 1897 and imported to North America in 1917.
The wild crabapple Malus coronaria is the only species of apple native to Ontario, where it is confined to southwestern Ontario (for more information see Natural Resources Canada factsheet).
Derivation of names
The genus name Malus is the classical Latin name for apple. It is derived from the Greek word melon, meaning fruit or apple.
Crabapples are used as rootstocks and sources of pollen for common apples (see Ontario Ministry of Agriculture factsheet) and to improve hardiness and disease resistance. Many species of crabapple are planted as ornamental trees, both for their abundant fruit and their spring displays of showy flowers. Crabapples tend to be sour but are still used to make jams and other condiments. Apple wood is good for cooking and smoke from it is a preferred flavouring for cheese and meat.
Crabapple blossoms are important for many insects including bees. Larval and adult insects, mammals, and birds eat apples.
Crabapples' place in Toronto's urban forest
Crabapples are planted for their display of spring flowers and fall fruit in parks, gardens and along streets and boulevards throughout Toronto. However, many of the apple trees you may come across in parks are common apple trees that have grown from the seed of tossed apple cores.
Landscape value and potential for home planting
Small compact trees, crabapples are suitable for planting in front and back yards, where they provide showy displays of flowers in spring and fruits in the fall. However, some homeowners consider them to be messy.
Pests and diseases: It is important to select a crabapple that is resistant to disease and infestation, particularly to apple scab, cedar apple rust, powdery mildew, and sunscald. Click here for an informative article in Canadian Gardening magazine on choosing and growing crabapples.
Find trees on Tree Tour maps at Canadian Tree Tours: