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  • Botany

European crab apple

The European crab apple is a small treethat reaches heights of between 8 and 12 metres, grows quite slowly and spontaneously in some woods.

Pommiers sauvages
European crab apple trees. ©


A member of the Rosaceae family, the European crab apple (Malus sylvestris) is called a "crab apple", due to the sour taste of its fruit which are of the apple.

Botanical description

The trunk of this tree divides into strong oblique limbs with many twisted branches. Its crown is wide and round. When the tree reaches maturity age, its yellowish brown colour bark, tends to peel off in patches. Its branches are spiny. Its deciduous leaves are tomentose, meaning they have short and dense hairs when young, and then become smooth. Their main part of the leaf is bright green and finely dentated. This tree blooms around the month of May, producing white five-petal flowers that are tinged with pink on their exterior. Its fruit resemble cultivated apples but are much smaller (3 to 4 centimetres in diameter), with a very bitter flavour, except for a few sweeter varieties.

Les fruits du pommier sauvage
Fruit of the European crab apple. © Hans Hillewaert, Wikipedia, CC 3.0 unported


For centuries, this species has grown throughout Western Europe, especially in France, Switzerland and Belgium.

Growing conditions

The European crab apple especially thrives in deciduous forests, rather warm and a little dry, up to an altitude of 1,500 metres. However, it can also be found on the edges of woods and fields.


The wood of this species is good for burning. In any case, this apple tree was often used, and is still used, as a stock tree when selecting productive varieties of edible apples.

Author: Michel Caron

European crab apple. © Bas Kers, Flickr CC by-NC-SA 2.0 European crab apple. © Bas Kers, Flickr CC by-NC-SA 2.0

European crab apple - 3 Photos



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