Genus Malus: The Apples and Crabapples – Family members of the roses. Trees and shrubs that are deciduous. Apples and crabapples are available in more than 500 cultivars and species. They have been cultivated since ancient times and are highly valued as ornamentals and fruit producers. As a fruit with a diameter of fewer than 2 inches, crabapples are known as crabapples.
Size and Form. This is a small flowering deciduous tree that grows between 15 and 25 feet tall. They usually have a rounded shape, but there are many cultivars in all sizes and shapes.
There are a variety of cultivars that offer purple, red, dark green, light green, and a variety of leaf sizes, along with simple, 3-inch leaves with a medium green color. In most cases, they do not have color in the fall, but there are a few groups that do.
There are cultivars with every color including pink, rose, red, and all colors in between. Typically, the flowers are 1.5 inches in diameter and have 5 petals. Flowers larger than 2 inches in diameter can be found on double-flowering, fragrant, and profuse flowering cultivars.
Fruit. The crabapple fruit has a diameter of 1 inch or less, changes color from green to red in the late summer, and matures in the fall. There are cultivars with fruit ranging in size from 0.25 inches to just under 2 inches, and in colors ranging from yellow to orange to red. Winter fruit is produced by some cultivars.
Bark. The bark of the tree is a shiny gray-brown color that becomes scaly as it ages.
Habitat. To produce its most delicious fruit and flowers, this fruit tree prefers moist, acidic soil with full sun exposure.
Notes: It is an ornamental introduced to Southeast Alaska, where it is very susceptible to scabs, rusts, fire blights, leaf spots, and powdery mildew due to the wet climate. Streams, wet forests, and Muskegs are common habitats for Malus fusca (Pacific crab apple), a native tree to our region.
Fruit larger than 2 inches (apples) can be grown in Juneau, but careful selection of the variety and location is required. The cross-pollination of crabapples leads to the creation of novel hybrids. Some of the most popular crabapple ornamental cultivars include ‘Dolgo’, ‘Donald Wyman’, ‘Floribunda’, ‘Profusion’, ‘Sargentii’ and ‘Snowdrift’. Fall foliage and fruit of “pink spires’. Early summer foliage and flowers of “snowdrift’.