Crab Apple – Malus sylvestris

An important ancestor of our cultivated apples, it thrives on heavy soils in hedgerows, wood or areas of scrub. It is a useful addition to woodlands, where it will support a range of insects and birds.  A British native, it is one of the ancestors of all our cultivated apples and is often seen in hedgerows. It makes a pretty specimen tree for the garden and is a good pollinator for other apples. It is a useful addition to woodlands, where it will support a range of insects and birds.

Leaves and Bark:

It has a rosy-purple-grey bark which is smooth at first and then grows wrinkled. The leaves are oval to round with stalks which can often be tinted red and it has a pretty blossom which emerges in spring just after the leaves.

Flowers, Fruits, Nuts and Seeds:

The flowers may be rose-pink at first then fade to white. They are great for Bees which are attracted to the abundant source of nectar which they gather and at the same time pollinate the trees. They are very useful as pollination partners in orchards with cultivated apples due to their prolonged flowering period. Wild crab apples at first are small, round and yellow with a hard bitter flesh, this later softens becoming just sweet enough to eat.

Height and Spread:

8 – 12 m Height

4 – 8 m Spread

Common Uses:

Good wildlife interest.  Bees are attracted to the flowers, and birds and small mammals eat the fruits. Insects shelter in the crevices of the bark where they are a food source for birds. Useful for recipes such as crab apple jelly. Applewood logs from old trees can be used to make bowls or decorative carvings and can be used as good firewood.

Recommended Locations

  • Hedging
  • Wildlife Interest
  • Gardens
  • Parkland
  • Woodland
  • Edible
  • Slow growing ( 10 – 30 cm per year)