Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Like last week's post on daffodils, today's post is sorely overdue. It's about one of my favorite spring-blooming ornamental trees: the crabapple.

I simply love crabapples. There's something so wild and unsophisticatedly beautiful about them. And of course, many of them are like the two specimens below: utterly laden with flowers.

I'd say this pink is just about the perfect hue (that is, until I consider the redbud, also blooming now). As you can see, the flowers open up a darker pink then slowly turn lighter. The single flowers of five petals are not as fussy or hybridized as the heavy double flowers of a cherry, and the stamens on a crabapple are quite showy too.

It probably seems a little silly to call a tree "unsophisticatedly beautiful" (and spell check disapproves) but if you look at the branching habit below, perhaps you'd agree. There's a stubby, wild character to the tree's overall shape that makes them appear a little less cookie-cutter than a flowering cherry. Though I'm sure we can find plenty of lollipop-shaped crabapple cultivars.

I'm not trying to make this blog post a "crabapple vs. cherry" discussion, but I often feel Malus is overlooked this time of year for the benefit of their showier relative (indeed both are in the Rosaceae family). And... since we're enumerating the merits of this plant, I'd have to add crabs have lovely fall color and showy fruit (though, cherries have good fall color too).

Crabapples or Cherries? It's like Betty or Veronica, the Beatles or the Stones. What do you like most?

A bit on etymology: Malus is derivative for the Greek word for apple or the more general Greek word for fruit. The Latin word for apple is also Malus and, interestingly enough, the word for evil ('malum') derives from the word for apple. This evidently refers to the story of Adam and Eve and equating apples with evil. It's also worth noting that the precursor to this tale of an infamous apple involves the Greek Goddess of Discord, Eris. Eris was miffed because she wasn't invited to a wedding, so she tossed an apple engraved with "for the most beautiful" to the wedding guests in a strange yet successful attempt to rile up the competitive spirits of Hera, Athena and Aphrodite.


Michael said...

We had a house bordering the wetlans. In the backyard was a beautiful crab apple. The only downside was cleaning yp the avalanche of dropped frut from our lawn.

keewee said...

I too like crabapple trees.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned Red Bud, is that related to the Crabapple? Virginia is full of Red Buds, the color is almost Neon. I like the Crabapple trees more than the cherries for the same reason I like the Red Buds, they are totally full of flowers when in bloom. Branches almost to the trunk.

southern horizons3 said...

Thanks for interesting post. I'm from the subtropics and not overly familiar with these two species in the Rosaceae family. Deciduous native species are few and far between down under, evergreen is the order of the day. You are fortunate in that you have two hits with a gorgeous autumn foliage fall and then the spring flowering. I would just like to mention that we have a native rainforest species called 'Crabapple','White Cherry' or 'Cherry Birch'. Scientifically known as Schizomeria ovata; it is in the Cunoniaceae family. And like the apple and cherry it belongs in the Rosiflorae order; so there lies a relationship. However the fruit is small and tarty; it can be eaten raw, stewed or used in pies and jam.

Invertir en oro said...

Thanks for interesting post. I'm from the subtropics and not overly familiar with these two species in the Rosaceae family