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Crabapples are among a select group of trees that provide four season pleasure to the eye. Spring is graced with beautiful flowers, summer brings attractive foliage, fall leaves create a tapestry of colors, and winter snows and landscapes show off the branch shapes and unique tree forms enhancing the exhibit of the colorful fruits. There are over 35 species and about 700 varieties of crabapples. Botanically they belong to the genus Malus along with all other apples. Historically, they have been traced back to the mountains of Kazakhstan. The United States is home to about three native species that are mixed in with cuttings and seeds introduced by colonists from Europe. Crabapples are also known as wild apples, crab trees, crabs, and schoolboy apples. Crabapples for the most part, are edible. The name crab may allude to the taste of crabapples as they are bitter tasting and sour.
Crabapples were first used in America for making cider. Crabapples are excellent for cider as is the larger fruited apples. Crabapples contain high amounts of pectin. Pectin is the ingredient that’s helps firm up jellies, jams, and apple butters. Wildlife also thrives on crabapple fruits. Robins swarm crabapple fruits after they were softened by several frosts and freezes. Crabapple trees are hardy, tough, and adaptable to many spoils and climates. Plant them in full sun for best flowering and fruiting. Suggested soil pH for crabs is 5.0 to 7.5. Crabapple trees come in many sizes and shapes and several flower colors. They are excellent for adding color and texture to yards and landscapes.