Crab apple trees thrive in heavy soil in hedgerows, woods and areas of scrub.
Scientific name: Malus sylvestris Family: Rosaceae
Unlike many trees, crab apple trees grow singly, and sometimes woods will only have one tree.
Crab apple trees are one of the ancestors of the cultivated apple, they can live to up to 100 years. Mature crab apple trees grow to around 10m in height. They have an irregular, rounded shape and a wide, spreading canopy. With greyish brown, flecked bark, trees can become quite gnarled and twisted, especially when exposed, and the twigs often develop spines. This ‘crabbed’ appearance may have influenced its common name, ‘crab apple’.
Crab apple trees one of the few host trees to the parasitic mistletoe, Viscum album, and trees are often covered in lichens.
Leaves: the brown and pointed leaf buds form on short stalks, and have downy hair on their tips, followed by glossy, oval leaves.
Flowers: in spring, the sweetly scented blossom is pollinated by bees and other insects, which develops into small, yellow-green apple-like fruits, around 2-3cm across.
Fruits: sometimes the fruits are flushed with red or white spots when ripe. Birds and mammals eat the fruit and disperse the seeds.
To plant crab apple trees, choose a location in full sun with well-drained soil. Trees that are shaded develop an open canopy instead of a more attractive, dense growth habit. Shaded trees produce fewer flowers and fruit, and they are more susceptible to disease. Newly planted crab apple trees don’t need fertilizing until the following spring, but they do need regular watering during their first year.