Crabapples

Native Shrubs ... in wildlife landscaping

West Virginia Native Plant Society
West Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program

Wild Crabapple - Pyrus coronaria
Southern (Narrowleaf) Crabapple - P. augustifolia

  Form: Large 1 to 2 stemmed shrub or small tree to 30 feet tall, often forming dense thickets.
  Bark and Twigs: Twigs with sharp 1 inch long spines and light gray color, older bark of long reddish-brown scales.
  Leaves: Deciduous, alternate and simple.
Wild - Base and tip rounded, smooth.
Southern - Egg-shaped with a flat base and sharp tip, hairy below.
  Flowers: Pink when opening then white, very fragrant and showy, 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide.
  Fruit: Yellowish-green apple that is very bitter, 1 inch diameter, persistent over winter on the ground.
West Virginia Range:
Wild - Common throughout.
Southern - Glades and swamps of higher elevations in Preston, Webster, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Hardy and Raleigh Counties.
Natural Habitat:
Openings in swamps, old fields and forest borders.
Wildlife Use:
Twigs are browsed by deer. The flowers are very good for bees and butterflies. Old fruits which persist on the ground are eaten by raccoon, quail, turkey, foxes and deer in late winter when other foods are gone. These can be the difference between life and death. The dense thickets and thorny branches provide excellent shelter and nesting sites.
Horticulture:
Uses: Specimen, individual tree for flowers, clumps.
Light: Full sunlight.
Soil Moisture: Wet to dry, best in well-drained, loam soils.
Soil pH: Acid to alkaline, very adaptable.
Problems: Short lived tree to 20 or 30 years age. Is an alternate host for cedar apple rust. Therefore areas with red cedar may want to be avoided. Commonly affected by apple scab and fire blight diseases, especially if not planted on good sites.
Other: The sour fruits can be used to make excellent tart jellies and preserves or for cider.

Compiled by: William N. Grafton, naturalist, botanist and wildlife specialist, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

Written by West Virginia Native Plant Society members and jointly published with the WV Nongame Program

Illustration from Flora of West Virginia, Strausbaugh and Core