The Crab Apple Malus sylvestris is native to Europe, including Britain, Western Russia and Turkey. Its scientific name means ‘forest apple’. It is often found in old woods and hedgerows. It is the ‘wild’ apple of Europe but can easily be confused with Orchard Apple trees (Malus domestica) that have grown from the pips of discarded apples. Crab Apple Tree identification is by its leaves, white flowers in spring and fruit. Crab Apple leaves are hairless underneath, whereas the Orchard Apple leaves are hairy. White flowers appear in May. In most years, from summer onwards, crab apples are easy to see and can identify the tree. They are small, yellow, hard and acid to the taste. In winter they can often be found under the tree. The tree may have thorns on lower branches.
Crab Apple Tree in blossom at the end of April.
This is the leaf of a Crab Apple. It has small teeth. The underside of the mature leaf of the Crab Apple is hairless. The underside of the Orchard Apple leaf is covered in fine white hairs.
Crab Apples are small, hard and acidic to the taste. The fruit is known as a pome by botanists.
Apples have 34 chromosomes so when pollinated they get 17 from one parent and 17 from another. In Nottingham in the 19th century a single seed generated a tree with apples of a superb taste – a Bramley. Apples are genetically extremely heterozygous and so do not breed true. So if you plant the seed of a Bramley you will not get another Bramley. To propagate the new tree you need to take a cutting (scion) and graft it onto a suitable rootstock e.g the M9. So all the Bramleys are from one tree in Nottingham which was grown from a single seed in about 1810! The technique of grafting has been known since ancient times, in China from 2000BC. The rootstock and the scion retain their own genes so effectively each new tree is a clone.