Crab apple (genus Malus) is a deciduous tree that differs from the orchard apple in bearing smaller, often acidic or astringent fruits. Approximately nine species of crab apples are native to North America, mostly east of the Rocky Mountains, with only one, M. fusca (Oregon or Pacific crab), being native to British Columbia.
The crab apple is grown for its special ornamental attributes (e.g., tree form, showy blossoms, colour of fruit and sometimes leaves) and climatic adaptability. The fruits are valued for their superior jelly-making properties and as preserves. Many crab apples will intercross with sweet apples. In Canada, M. baccata, the Siberian crab apple, has been used to improve winter hardiness, and some prairie-hardy apple cultivars (cultivated varieties) have resulted. The Japanese flowering crab, M. floribunda, has also been used in traditional breeding, but as a source of resistance to the disease apple scab (Venturia inaequalis). Because of their long flowering period and abundant pollen, some types of crab apple are used in commercial apple orchards as pollen providers for the main cultivar.
When did the Apple tree arrive in Canada and why do some trees in B.C live over a thousand years? A quick peek into some of the history kept by our land’s oldest living knowledge keepers — trees.
Note: The Secret Life of Canada is hosted and written by Falen Johnson and Leah Simone Bowen and is a CBC original podcast independent of The Canadian Encyclopedia.