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The crab apple grows singly, sometimes woods will only have one tree. It is found throughout Europe and Asia Minor and can be easily confused with domestic apple trees which have ‘escaped’ from cultivation and become naturalised.
What other names does it have?
Can also be known as
Latin family name
What type of tree is it?
Is it a broadleaf or conifer?
It is a broadleaf
Does it lose its leaves in autumn?
Yes, it is deciduous
Glossy with small rounded triangular teeth. The leaves are often folded or crumpled
Up to 6cm
Brown with downy hair at their pointed tips
Flower, seed, and fruit
Type of flower
Yellow-green often flushed with red and/or white spots
Type of seed body
Seeds dispersed by
Bark and twig
Purplish brown with scaly ridges
Green brown in colour with spurs and spines
What other trees are similar?
Can easily be confused with?
Orchard apples- many varieties and hybrids which generally have pinker flowers and larger fruit
Where is it usually found?
Is it native or non-native to the British Isles?
Where is its natural range?
Brtiain and Ireland
Preferred soil type or environmental conditions?
Frequent in old woods and hedges on heavier soils
What is its British conservation status?
Human uses of tree and timber
The crab apple was the most important ancestor of the cultivated apple, over 6,000 varieties having been bred over the ages (over two-thirds now extinct). The timber of the crab apple is uniform in texture and if dried slowly, is excellent for woodworking. At one time it was used for making set-squares and other drawing instruments. The fruit is excellent for crab apple jelly and wine. It has been cultivated since early times- a few crab apples were found in an early Bronze Age coffin. Crab apples can also be roasted and served with meat or added to winter ale or punches. In Ireland a yellow dye was extracted from the bark to colour wool.
Tree lore and folklore
Many beliefs stem from crab apples, mostly to do with love and marriage partners. An example is throwing pips into the fire whilst saying the name of your true love, if the pip explodes the love is true. Shakespeare also makes reference to crab apples in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labour Lost.
Illustrations supplied by
©2013 The Woodland Trust