May 2023 - Crabapple

Common Name:  Flowering Crabapple

Botanical Name:  Malus species

Native Range:  Multiple native crabapples native to the eastern half of the United States. USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8.  

Height:   Typically grows to 10 to 25 feet. 

Spread: Typically grows to a spread of 20 feet.

Form: A small deciduous tree with a mounded growing habit.

Growth Rate:  Slow to moderate depending on soil and light conditions averaging 10-12 inches per year.

Sun: Will adapt to most conditions, but fruit production is dependent on sun exposure. 

Soil: Requires moist well-drained, slightly acidic soil for growth, flowering, and fruiting.

Leaf Description:  Simple ovate leaves are slightly serrated along the edges. 

Fall Color:  Ornamental in fall.  The color varies from yellow, red, orange, and bronze. 

Flower Description: The flower color ranges from white to red depending on the cultivar. Single flowers have 5 petals. Flowers occur in an umbel or corymb-like racemes. Flowers bloom from mid to late April to early May.

Fruit: The crabapple fruit is usually less than 2 inches in diameter with colors ranging from red to yellow to green. While the fruit is edible, cooking and sweetening make the fruit more palatable for consumption, however, wildlife will benefit. Depending on the cultivar, some trees will drop their fruit when ripe, while others will hold onto the fruit through winter.

Bark Description:  The bark is grayish-brown in color and is smooth when the tree is young. The bark becomes rough as the tree ages.  

Wildlife Benefit:  A host to many birds and pollinators attracted to the tree’s edible fruit and flower.


  • Compacted soil
  • Pollution 
  • Road salt

Possible Disease and Insect Problems: In the Rosaceae family. Susceptible to rust, leaf blight, powdery mildew, leaf miner, Japanese beetles, tent caterpillars, scale, aphids, and borers.  

Uses: Crabapple can be used as a specimen in plantings, in naturalized borders, and for screening. Due to its small size, Crabapple is also on the utility-friendly street tree planting list. 

Where to be found on municipal property:  

  • Multiple purple-leafed variety crabapples can be seen along Franklin in front of the Franklin Lot.
  • A white flowering crabapple called ‘Sugar Thyme” can be found at the cross street of Jefferson and Mount Lucas, on Jefferson.

Additional Facts:

  • Crabapple is in the Rosaceae family. Subject to many of the same issues as apple trees but are primarily cosmetic. 
  • 3 native crabapples. Malus currently has more than 800 cultivars.
  • Fruit can be used for jelly. Wood can be used on a lathe.
  • Seeds are considered toxic if ingested in large quantities. 
  • Crabapples were brought to the U.S. in 1623 by colonists who believed that the fruit would cure scurvy and other fungal diseases. 
  • The skin and bark of the crabapple are used to cure various conditions in traditional medicine.
  • The acidic quality of the fruit is considered beneficial to digestion.
  • Sugar Thyme is a common cultivar with white flowers that shows resistance to disease.
  • Weeping and columnar varieties available. 
  • International crabapple society defines crabapple as an apple tree that has fruit that is less than 2”. Greater than 2” the fruit is classified as an apple.


 Dirr, M. A.; Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 2019

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