Home Gardening Malus sylvestris: The Crab Apple Tree | Benefits, Uses, and Care

Malus sylvestris: The Crab Apple Tree | Benefits, Uses, and Care

by Gregory
3 minutes read

Malus sylvestris: The Crab Apple Tree


The crab apple tree (Malus sylvestris) is a type of deciduous tree that belongs to the Rosaceae family. It is native to Europe and is the ancestor of cultivated apple trees.

Physical Characteristics

Crab apple trees can grow up to 39 feet tall and have a spread of 26 feet. They have a rounded shape and wide, spreading canopy. The branches of mature trees can appear gnarled and develop spines, which may have given the tree its common name.

The flowers of the crab apple tree are white or pink and bloom in the spring. The fruits are small, green, and apple-like, and often have red spots.

Habitat and Distribution

Crab apple trees are typically found in hedgerows and the edges of woodlands. However, it is important to note that most “crab apple” trees in the wild are actually cultivated apples that have grown from discarded apple cores. True Malus sylvestris can only be identified through DNA testing.

Wildlife Value

Crab apple trees are extremely valuable to wildlife. Their flowers are a source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. The leaves are used by the caterpillars of several moths, and the fruits are eaten by birds and small mammals.


Crab apples can be used in jellies and as a natural source of pectin for setting jams. They are also excellent pollination partners for cultivated apples.

Planting and Care

Crab apple trees prefer to grow in moist, well-drained soil in full sun or dappled shade. They can be planted as a standard tree or as part of a hedge. It is important to choose the right option for your needs and to ensure that you have the best growing conditions for your tree.


Crab apples are toxic to humans and animals if ingested. The seeds contain a toxin that can cause an upset stomach.


The crab apple tree is a beautiful and valuable tree that provides food and shelter for wildlife. It is also a popular choice for landscaping due to its attractive flowers and fruits. However, it is important to be aware of the tree’s toxicity before planting it in your yard.

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