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Irish Crab Apple tree ... Malus sylvestris ... crann fia-úl

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:15 pm    Post subject: Irish Crab Apple tree ... Malus sylvestris ... crann fia-úl Reply with quote

Native Irish Crab Apple tree ... Malus sylvestris ... an crann fia-úll

This native tree is a colourful seasonal provider of flower and fruit, which goes by the Latin name of Malus sylvestris. It is also know by numerous other more common names such as Silver Branch, Silver Bough, Scribe Tree, European Wild Apple and Wood apple. However, the name that rings a bell with most of us is the more commonly used one, the Crab apple. Native wild Crab Apple trees are quite rare in Ireland, with the majority of them growing within the hedgerows and woodlands on the eastern side of this isle, particularly on neutral or slightly alkaline soils. It's a deciduous tree, which rarely grows beyond 8 metres (24ft) in height.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Malus
Species: M. sylvestris

Leaf and blossom of a fruit tree native to Ireland.
To seek out a wild growing Crab Apple, begin your search in late April, when its leaves open out. The simple leaves are oval, 3-4 cm long, with a slightly ruffled edge and short pointed leaf tips. Alternately produced along the growing shoots, the upsides of the leaf display a fresh green hue, whereas the undersides are an off-white shade, this difference adds a welcome colour variation to the tree every time a stiff breeze disturbs the foliage. The next best time to spot the Crab Apple is when it is in flower. The attractive blossom clusters, which were earlier crimson in the bud, open throughout the month of May in shades of pink and white with yellow centres. This flower of the wild apple is quite rightly held up as a symbol of horticultural beauty, it has many imitators from the paint manufacturers to the nurserymen who borrow the shade and the term "Apple blossom" to help sell their new products.

The bees and the birds.
The flowers are pollinated by the early bees, one of the 90 possible associated insects that the Crab apple provides a home and sustenance for. Another form of wildlife that benefits from the growth of the Crab apple tree are our native birds, they relish the trees autumn crop of greenish-yellow miniature apples. Crab apples are much loved by birds as a source of food and much-loved by myself for all the amusement they offer me, every time I watch a small robin wrestle and win with one of the many 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide fruits. Those birds will then depart to scatter the apple seed throughout the hedgerows where they perch, there it will grow to complete another of nature's life circles. Raw Crab apples are much too acid for us humans; instead, we use the fruit in the creation of jams and jellies, often combined with rowan or blackberries. For those of you who like their apple tarts especially tart, it is said you can add one or two sliced up crab apples for that extra dose of face contorting sourness.

Growing your own.
If you want to grow your own Crab apple tree, ideally offer it a position in full sun with a moisture retentive but not waterlogged soil. Even with a smaller garden, don't be put off by the wild crab apples size however, as there is a great selection of smaller cultivated varieties, ensuring you will definitely find something to suit your size of garden.

Growing information at a glance.
Expected height: 10m / Expected spread: 6m over 30 years
Grow in full sun or partial shade
Soil must be well-drained.
Flowers May to June, fruits in autumn
Main pests are Aphids, Caterpillars, Woolly aphid and Red spider mite
Main diseases are Apple canker, Apple scab, Fireblight and Powdery mildew.

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Also try here...... Best Tree Identification Books

Chart shows approximate distribution of the native tree within Ireland, each dot is a 10km square in which the species grows.

Back to native Irish trees.

Crab apple Images courtesy
Zelimir Borzan, University of Zagreb, Croatia

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