Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
The wild Crab Apple, Malus sylvestris, is a small tree of woods and hedges throughout Britain. It occurs singly, curiously, and is found naturally across Europe in scrub or on woodland edge, where it can find the light without too much competition. The native crab is relatively scarce; mostly you will now find cultivated varieties of crab apples (many of which we sell) or "wilding" trees, growing from discarded apple cores. Malus sylvestris was widely planted as a hedge plant in the enclosure periods, but these trees have long since died - they only last up to 100 years. Where you do now see them in hedges they're usually standard trees. They could be planted a lot more as hedge plants; they're hardy, attractive and stockproof. Crab apples need fertile soil and sun as they can be prone to pests and diseases.
Value For Wildlife
The crab's extended flowering period, with its very pretty blossom, is helpful for bees in particular. Over the winter many birds and mammals eat its apples. Malus sylvestris leaves and fruit are eaten by a wide range of animals, including a terrifying sounding moth, the apple leaf skeletoniser.
Crab apples are used in orchards to cross pollinate other apple trees. Their fruit, with its high pectin levels, makes delicious jelly, and the wood has an attractive pinkish hue when carved. Good firewood too, which used to be burned by the Celts during fertility festivals.
Plants For Sale
Suppliers: Perrie Hale Forest Nursery, British Hardwood Tree Nursery, RV Roger
Your purchase of Crab Apples helps us support a range of charities, which are related to the products we sell.
See our planting and size guide for details and tips on planting Crab Apples.
Most of our Crab Apple trees are bare root, and are consequently available for delivery from November until March. During the lifting season there may be up to two weeks delay between placing the order and dispatching (longer for standards), due to weather conditions or pressure of orders, which are dealt with in date sequence. Orders placed for Crab Apple trees between March and September are confirmed in October ready for dispatch from November.
In addition to bare root plants, we also offer Malus sylvestris as small cell grown plants. These have some soil around their roots and are a sort of half way house between bare root and pot grown. Their root systems are pretty small but they will establish well.
Time to Ultimate Height
Over 20 years
Clay, loam, sand, chalk
Neutral, acid, alkaline
Sheltered or exposed
Full or partial sun