European crab apple (Malus sylvestris)
Malus acerba M‚ rat
Malus communis subsp. sylvestris (Mill.) Gams
Malus malus (L.) Britton
Pyrus acerba (M‚ rat) DC.
Pyrus malus L.
Pyrus malus var. sylvestris L.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for European crab
apple is Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: European crab apple
is a low growing, round-crowned tree, up to 45 eet (15 m) tall. Its stems
are more or less thorny, tomentose or heavily pubescent when young.
Leaves are clustered on pubescent spur branches, ovate, elliptical or sub-
orticular in shape. The leaf margins are crenate or serrate, with the leaf
base cordate or rounded. Leaves are 3–15 cm long, 2.5–5.5 cm wide end-
ing in an abrupt slender tip which is not stiff (apiculate). Flowers are on
spurs in clusters along the fruiting section of the branch, flowers being
white or pink, 3–4 cm in diameter. The sepals are 3–7 mm long, glabrous
outside, wooly, with long, soft, matted hairs (tomentose) on the inside.
The flower styles are glabrous or sparsely villous at the base. The fruits
are variable as to size, color and shape, depending on the variety, with sub-
glabrous skin, wide an edible fleshy portion, and a core of 5 carpels, each
containing one or more seeds. The seeds are brown and obovoid in shape.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Apples are not dependably self-fertile;
cross-pollination is necessary. Bees and other insects are agents. Honey-
bees bring about 90% of pollen transfer in an orchard.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: European crab apple requires a soil well-
drained and aerated, and moderately textured, not too heavy or too light.
It is almost always planted in full sun.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: The European crab apple is primarily an
orchard tree or planted ornamental. Because it does not constitute an
appreciable component of the forest environment, successional status is
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Flowers occur in spring, shortly after
the leaves appear; the fruit varies through summer and fall.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: As a commercially grown plant, European
crab apple can be found growing throughout most of the United States
where suitable environmental conditions permit.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: As a domesticated
plant that is rarely encountered in the wild (although it can be encountered
in abandoned farms, orchards, and occassionally in waste areas adjacent to
former production areas), issues pertinent to habitat types and plant com-
munities are not applicable.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Its leaves are food of the caterpillars of the
twin-spotted sphinx (Smerinthus jamaicensis) and possibly the hawthorn
moth (Scythropia crataegella).
European crab apple, like all apples, has been valued by humans in an
extraordinary number of ways. The Purdue University Center for New
Crops and Plants Products states that apples are most valued as a fresh
desert fruit, and may be made into jams, jellies, wines, ciders, vinegars,
fresh juice, applesauces, apple butter, brandies, pies and cakes. They may
also be baked, fried, stewed, spiced, candied, or used in mincemeat or
chutney. The hard wood is used for turnery, canes and pipes. Apples are
a good detergent food for cleaning teeth. The oil from the seeds is used for
cooking and illumination. In addition, as a folk medicine, apples are regard-
ed as an apertif, bactericide, carminative, cyanogenetic, depuretives, diges-
tive, diuretic, emollient, hypnotic, laxative, refrigerant, sedative, and tonic.
Apples are said to be a folk remedy for bilious ailments, cacoethes, cancer,
catarrh, diabetes, dysentery, fever, flux, heart, malaria, pertussis, scurvy,
spasm, thirst, and warts. In Europe scraped apple has been used extensive-
ly to treat infant intestinal disorders, such as diarrhea, dysentery, and
dyspepsia. Root and bark are considered anthelmintic, hypnotic, and refrig-
erant, and a bark infusion is given Indians suffering from bilious ailments,
intermittent and remittent fevers. Apple leaves contain an antibacterial
substance called phloretin, which is active in doses as low as 30 ppm. Fruit
eaten to obviate constipation.
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Sky Meadows Park
Crooked Run Valley