Crabapples are small deciduous trees with a broad and open crown. Apples and Crabapples are in the rose family, Rosaceae, in the genus Malus. Crabapples are differentiated from Apples based on fruit size. If fruit is two inches in diameter or less, it is termed a Crabapple. If the fruit is larger than two inches, it is classified as an Apple. The height of Crabapples ranges greatly from 6- 50 feet depending on the variety and the growing conditions, however most average in the 15-25 ft range. There are currently 35 species and over 700 cultivated varieties of Crabapples recorded.
Image Citation (Crabapple in bloom-Left & Right): Dow Gardens Archive, Dow Gardens, Bugwood.org
The fragrant flowers are white with a hint of pink or sometimes all pink. Growing in clusters of flowers that appear with the new leaves. Crabapple flowers may be single (5 petals), semi-double (6 to 10 petals) or double (more than 10 petals). Single-flowered Crabapple varieties tend to bloom earlier than semi-double or double-flowered varieties. Actual dates of blossoming can vary each year depending on weather conditions. The length of time in bloom, can range from 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the variety and weather conditions.
Image Citation (Southern Crabapple Flowers Purple and White): Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
The leaves are coarsely toothed and green in color. In the fall the leaves change in color, the colors range from yellow to orange, red to purple. The falling leaves reveal the still attached fruits offering another level of interest.
The Crabapples fruit is small, long stalked and rather sour in flavor. They are yellow-green in color an grow in clusters of 3 to 4. The fruit is rarely eaten raw as it is sour, bitter and sometimes woody in texture. However in some Asian cultures it is used and valued as a sour condiment. There are few varieties that are sweet though not as common as the sour varieties.
Image Citation (Crabapple Illustration): Zelimir Borzan, University of Zagreb, Bugwood.org
Crabapple has been listed as one of the 38 plants that are used to prepare Bach flower remedies, an alternative medicine practice promoted for its effect on health. Though this has not been scientifically proven to date.
The Crabapple grows commonly in forest clearings and near streams in the Eastern United States (but not very far North). Ornamental varieties are grown throughout the United States in many Landscapes. Crabapple trees are fairly drought tolerant. They can be low maintenance and versatile landscape plants, and offer more than one season of interest between their flowers, fruit, and changing leaf colors.