sweet crabapple (Malus coronaria)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMON NAMES:
American crab
Biltmore crab apple
Dunbar crab apple
sweet crab apple
crab apple
crabapple
crab-apple

 

SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS:
Malus bracteata (L. H. Bailey) Rehder
Malus coronaria (L.) Mill. var. coronaria
Malus coronaria
(L.) Mill. var. dasycalyx Rehder
Malus coronaria (L.) Mill. var. elongata Rehder
Malus coronaria (L.) Mill. var. lancifolia (Rehder) C. F. Reed
Malus glabrata Rehder
Malus glaucescens Rehder
Malus lancifolia Rehder
Pyrus bracteata L.H. Bailey
Pyrus coronaria L.
Pyrus coronaria L. var. dasycalyx (Rehder) Fernald
Pyrus coronaria L. var. elongata (Rehder) L. H. Bailey
Pyrus coronaria L. var. lancifolia (Rehder) Fernald
Pyrus glaucescens (Rehder) L. H. Bailey
Pyrus lancifolia (Rehder) L. H. Bailey

 

CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.

 

TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for sweet crab
apple is Malus coronaria (L.) Mill.

 

NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.

 

GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Sweet crab apple
small tree is 15-25' tall at maturity. It has a short trunk that is often
crooked and a broad irregular crown. The trunk bark is variable, but it
is often reddish gray-brown, rough-textured, and covered with long-
itudinal scales that often curve. Sometimes the trunk bark is more flat
and less developed. The bark of branches is reddish brown or dark red-
dish gray and smooth. Along the larger branches, thorny side branches
often develop. The blades of the alternate leaves are 1½-3" long and
¾-2" across; they are more or less ovate, coarsely toothed, and often
shallowly cleft. The upper blade surface is yellowish green to bright green
and hairless, while the lower surface is pale green and hairless (or nearly
so, except for very young leaves). The slender petioles are ¾-2" long,
light green to bright red (often the latter), and hairless to nearly hairless.
Cymes of 2-6 flowers are produced from short spur-like branches. Individ-
ual flowers are 1-1¾" across, consisting of 5 pink petals (often becoming
white with age), a green to reddish green calyx with 5 narrowly triangular
lobes, a pistil with 5 styles, and 10-20 stamens. The exterior surface of the
calyx (facing away from the petals) is smooth and hairless, while its interior
surface is densely covered with appressed silky hairs. The slender pedicels
are 1-2" long and hairless to nearly hairless. The flowers have a pleasant
fragrance. Fertile flowers are replaced by a globoid fruit (pome) that is
¾-1½" across. The fragrant fruit is initially green, but it later becomes
yellowish green or yellow at maturity; its surface is smooth and waxy. The
hard flesh of the mature fruit is slightly juicy and sour-tasting; it contains
several seeds toward the center of its interior. The root system is woody
and branching, sometimes producing underground runners that form
clonal offsets.

 

REGENERATION PROCESS: Sweet crabapple propogates itself by
reseeding; it can also form clonal offsets from underground runners.

 

SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Sweet crabapple prefers light (sandy),
medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can
grow in heavy clay soil.The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline)
soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) but its preference is full
or partial sun.

 

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: A slow-growing and short-lived tree in the
wild, sweet crabapple does best in the early successional stages, prefering
open or disturbed areas. It is less common in more mature successional
stages where a thick canopy can restrain its growth.

 

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid
-to late spring and lasts about 2 weeks.

 

GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Sweet crabapple is a species primarily
found in the eastern portion of the United States, from Georgia to New
York and westard to through the Ohio Valley to the Mississippi River.
It is generally absent from the Gulf Coast states and New England; it does
occur west of the Mississippi River - Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and
Colorado. It has been reported in only one Canadian province - Ontario.

 

SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:

 

Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.

 

       Bleak House
       Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
       South Ridge/North Ridge
       Gap Run
       Snowden
       Woodpecker Lane

       Sherman's Mill
       Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
       Fish Pond

 

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Habitats include
open woodlands, woodland openings, woodland borders, savannas, and
thickets. Wild crab apple can be found in both upland and bottomland
areas where other deciduous shrubs and trees are present, particularly
where there has been some disturbance to reduce the overhead canopy
of dominant trees.

 

IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers are cross-pollinated by honey-
bees, bumblebees, digger bees (Synhalonia spp.), and other long-tongued
bees. Other floral visitors include small short-tonged bees (Andrenid,
Halictid), butterflies, and skippers. These insects obtain nectar from the
flowers, although some of the bees may collect pollen. Like other Malus
spp., wild crab apple attracts its fair share of insect pests. The cater-
pillars of many moths feed on the leaves and other parts of this small
tree . The caterpillars of the butterflies Limenitis archippus (viceroy),
Limenitis arthemis astyanax (red-spotted purple), Papilio glaucus
(tiger swallowtail), and Satyrium liparops strigosum (striped hair-
streak) also feed on the leaves. Beetles and weevils that feed on Malus
spp. include Rynchaenus pallicarnis (apple flea weevil), Anthonomus
quadrigibbus
(apple curculio), Conotrachelus nenuphar (plum curculio),
Macrodactylus subspinosus (rose chafer), Popillia japonica (Japanese
beetle), Saperda candida (round-headed apple tree borer), Saperda
cretata (spotted apple tree borer), Agrilus vittaticollis (apple root
borer), Chrysobothris femorata (flat-headed apple tree borer),
Monarthrum mali (apple wood stainer), Amphicerus bicaudatus
(apple twig borer), and Paria fragariae (strawberry root worm).

Other insects feeders include aphids, leafhoppers, treehoppers, and other
insects. Among vertebrate animals, many upland gamebirds and song-
birds occasionally eat the fruit, as do such mammals as the black bear,
gray fox, red fox, opossum, raccoon, striped skunk, fox squirrel,
gray squirrel, meadow vole, and deer mouse. Cottontail rabbits browse
on the foliage and twigs of young saplings during the summer, and gnaw
on the bark of older trees during the winter. White-tailed deer also
browse on the twigs and foliage. Because it is densely branched and
thorny, wild crab apple provides nesting habitat and cover for the
yellow-breasted chat, song sparrow, orchard oriole, and other birds.

 

The plant can be used as a rootstock for cultivated apples, conferring a
greater hardiness. The wood is heavy, close-grained, and not strong. Used
for making levers, the handles of tools, small domestic items and fuel.

An infusion of the bark has been used to ease a difficult birth and also in
the treatment of gallstones, piles and as a wash for sore mouths. A cold
infusion of the bark has been used as a wash for black eyes, sore eyes and
snow blindness. A decoction of the root has been used to treat suppressed
menses and so can cause an abortion, especially early in the pregnancy.

 

 

Back to Inventory of Tree Families and Species

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