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Plant of the Month: November 2002
Ornamental Crabapples; genus Malus

    Crabapples are small apples. The line between a small regular apple such as is grown in an orchard, and a large crabapple --is blurry. An arbitrary size often cited is 2 inches. If the fruit is smaller it is a crabapple, if larger an apple. This rule-of-thumb is clumsy because many trees bear fruit that averages about 2 inches. In such cases people need also look at tree form, foliage and flowers. Doing so enables an accurate classification of most trees as small-fruited domestic apples or as large-fruited crabapples.
    The role of crabapples in our orchards, parks, gardens and landscapes varies. Certain kinds are valued variously for:

    Floral beauty
    Floral fragrance
    Floral pollination
    Fruit display
    Fruit worth harvesting
    Fruit to attract birds

    Crabapple tree shape varies from narrowly erect to oval, round, mushroom shaped or weeping. Size ranges from dwarf "toy trees" to specimens as large as any regular apple tree. Leaves can be green or purplish-red. Flowers may be tiny and white, or as large as 2.5 inches wide, and can be pink or red, with 5 petals or many more. In brief, the crabapple clan is diverse.
    Though they are often called flowering crabapples, I prefer the term ornamental crabapples. And since the flower display of any given kind lasts only from one or two (rarely three) weeks per year, I think more of us should plant crabapples that bear long-lasting attractive fruit. The fruit can be showy for at least a month and in some cases up to 5 months.
    Within the city limits of Seattle there are, I estimate, about 150 different kinds of crabapples. I can cite locations of at least 100 kinds in various parks and private gardens, as well as at schools, hospitals, cemeteries and so on. Another 32 kinds are known to me only at Washington Park Arboretum. And others exist in Seattle that I have not yet found and/or identified.
    My choice of the following 20 kinds notable for fruit display, and the remarks I make about them, pertain to how these trees do in Seattle. East of the Cascade mountains most crabapple trees perform better; they are less scabby and more fruitful. I am singling out 20 kinds whose fruit lasts reasonably well into late fall or winter. Many others have fruit that is glorious in late summer and early fall, but then drops (examples: Dolgo, Hopa, Klehm's Improved Bechtel). Also I am citing clones/cultivars only, fully cognizant that certain Malus prunifolia or Malus robusta (that is Malus baccata x Malus prunifolia) individuals have fruit showy enough to be listed. The glitch is: such trees cannot be found in commerce. As it is, certain trees I list below are darn hard to find for sale currently.
    Eventually I hope to get photographs of all of these, so you can see them in living color. Meanwhile, I can only counsel patience.

Malus Donald Wyman photo
Nov. 22 Malus Donald Wyman photo by ALJ

Malus Evereste photo
Nov. 8 Malus Evereste photo by ALJ
Malus Golden Hornet photo
Oct. 17 Malus Golden Hornet photo by ALJ
Malus Professor Sprenger photo
Nov. 1 Malus Professor Sprenger photo by ALJ
Malus Ralph Shay photo
Oct. 6 Malus Ralph Shay photo by ALJ
Malus Red Jewel photo
March 3 Malus Red Jewel photo by ALJ
Name Tree habit Fruit Color Fruit Size Origin
Adirondack Narrow yellow-pink 5/8" long Washington, D.C.; sold since 1988
Beauty Rounded red to 1.5" wide South Dakota; sold since 1929; now rare
Butterball Rounded yellow-orange to 1.5" wide Originated in Seattle (1947) but now I cannot find any left here
David Rounded shiny scarlet to 5/8" wide From Iowa; named in 1957 but scarcely sold until 1980s
Donald Wyman Rounded red 1/2" long Massachusetts; named in 1970; common
Doubloons Rounded yellow-golden to 5/8" Ohio. Patented; sold since 1988
Evereste Rounded orange-red to 1" wide From Europe; sold in U.S. since 1987
Golden Hornet Rounded yellow, then golden to 1" long From England; to U.S. in 1955; rare
Gorgeous Rounded dwarf orange red 3/4" to 1 1/8" long From New Zealand; rare in U.S.
Henry Kohankie Rounded red to 1.5" long From Ohio in 1930s; a Malus robusta
Indian Magic Low & wide glossy red golden-orange to 5/8" long Named in 1975 in Indiana
Ormiston Roy Rounded yellow-orange with reddish blush 1/2" Named in Iowa in 1954
Prairifire Low, wide purplish-red to .5" long Illinois 1982
Professor Sprenger Robust; rounded orange-red to .75" long From Holland, 1950s
Ralph Shay Rounded brilliant red to 1.25" wide Indiana 1976
Red Jewel Rounded brilliant red to 1/2" Ohio 1975. Patented and trademarked; also called 'Jewelcole'
Red Siberian Robust; rounded red to 1.5" From France; old fashioned; commercially extinct
Red Splendor Rounded bright red to 5/8" long Minnesota 1948
Sugar Tyme Rounded rich red to 5/8" Michigan 1983; patented
Malus transitoria Golden Raindrops Rounded golden-yellow 3/8" wide Oregon 1992; trademarked; also called 'Schmidtcutleaf'

Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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