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Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill.

Wild Crab

Modern name

Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill.


Pyrus malus var. sylvestris L.; M. acerba Merat

A tree up to 30 ft or sometimes more high, or a shrub, with unarmed or more rarely thorny branches and a brown fissured bark; young growths slightly hairy at first, later glabrous. Leaves ovate to elliptic, about 112 in. long, broadly wedge-shaped to rounded at the base, acuminate at the apex, slightly downy on the veins beneath when young, later glabrous, margins finely but bluntly toothed. Flowers white flushed with pink, 1 to 112 in. wide, borne on spurs in umbellate clusters. Calyx-tube and inflorescence axes glabrous or almost so. Fruits globose, 34 to almost 1 in. wide, greenish yellow flushed with red, hard and sour-tasting, with a cavity at both ends and crowned with the persistent calyx-lobes.

A native of Europe, including Britain. This species is really of no importance in gardens except as one of the parents of the orchard apples. It should not be confused with apparently wild seedlings of the orchard apples, which can easily be distinguished from our true wild crab by their downy stems, leaf undersides and calyx-tubes, and by their sweeter fruits. See further under M. domestica.

Den Boer considered that the crab called M. spectabilis ‘Alba Plena’ or ‘Albiplena’ is probably a double-flowered form of M. sylvestris. It is little known in this country.



Other species in the genus