The Crab Apple ~ Malus Species

Like many heralds of spring, crab apples explode with color upon the dreary backdrop of April.  For a tree that can grow in almost all 50 states, there are not many other species that can offer the colors, shapes and sizes the crab offers. It also has three season interest (as seen below), with blooms in spring, beautiful green (or red) foliage in summer, along with berries for winter. Fall is usually uneventful, as fall color is unknown to this tree.

Crab apples are loved by many of our wildlife friends.

  • The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of many moths and butterflies.
  • The flowers provide an important source of early pollen and nectar for insects, particularly honeybees.
  • The fruit is eaten by birds including cardinals, robins, thrushes and finches.
  • Mammals, including mice, raccoons, vole and squirrels also eat crab apple fruit.

Although all of the blooms are similar shaped, they come in a plethora of colors, buds that bloom to another color and different bloom times. Crabs can grow from 5′ – 50′ feet, but on average, stay between 15′ to 25′ feet range. This makes them a great choice for under wires or a street tree, along with the fact they are salt tolerant. Varieties can vary from columnar, weeping, spreading, vase-shaped to pyramidal which allows them to be planted almost anywhere. Click here for my favorite ‘cheat sheet’ (It’s a PDF) on crabs, which shows size, shape, bloom and berry colors, along with other great info.

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Sadly, there are many things lurking out there to attack crabs. Although many of the new varieties are resistant to one or more disease; scab, fireblight, leaf spot, rusts are among the top killers of crabs. Buying a resistant variety is the key to longevity.

Although the fruits are very tart, they are plentiful and able to be turned into jellies and jams quite easily, due to their high pectin. Here’s how you can do it!

A Makah Legend

The Indians who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State used to tell stories, not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When the world was very young, there were no people on the Earth. There were no birds or animals, either. There was nothing but grass and sand and creatures that were neither animals nor people but had some of the traits of people and some of the traits of animals.

Then the two brothers of the Sun and the Moon came to the Earth. Their names were Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means “The Two-Men-Who- Changed- Things.” They came to make the Earth ready for a new race of people, the Indians. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called all the creatures to them. Some they changed to animals and birds. Some they changed to trees and smaller plants.

Among them was a bad thief. He was always stealing food from creatures who were fishermen and hunters. The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things transformed him into Seal. They shortened his arms and tied his legs so that only his feet could move. Then they threw Seal into the Ocean and said to him, “Now you will have to catch your own fish if you are to have anything to eat.”

One of the creatures was a great fisherman. He was always on the rocks or was wading with his long fishing spear. He kept it ready to thrust into some fish. He always wore a little cape, round and white over his shoulders. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Great Blue Heron. The cape became the white feathers around the neck of Great Blue Heron. The long fishing spear became his sharp pointed bill.

Another creature was both a fisherman and a thief. He had stolen a necklace of shells. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Kingfisher. The necklace of shells was turned into a ring of feathers around Kingfisher’s neck. He is still a fisherman. He watches the water, and when he sees a fish, he dives headfirst with a splash into the water.

Two creatures had huge appetites. They devoured everything they could find. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed one of them into Raven. They transformed his wife into Crow. Both Raven and Crow were given strong beaks so that they could tear their food. Raven croaks “Cr-r-ruck!” and Crow answers with a loud “Cah! Cah!”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called Bluejay’s son to them and asked, “Which do you wish to be–a bird or a fish?”

“I don’t want to be either,” he answered.

“Then we will transform you into Mink. You will live on land. You will eat the fish you can catch from the water or can pick up on the shore. ”

Then the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things remembered that the new people would need wood for many things.

They called one of the creatures to them and said “The Indians will want tough wood to make bows with. They will want tough wood to make wedges with, so that they can split logs. You are tough and strong. We will change you into the yew tree.”

They called some little creatures to them. “The new people will need many slender, straight shoots for arrows. You will be the arrowwood. You will be white with many blossoms in early summer.”

They called a big, fat creature to them. “The Indians will need big trunks with soft wood so that they can make canoes. You will be the cedar trees. The Indians will make many things from your bark and from your roots.”

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things knew that the Indians would need wood for fuel. So they called an old creature to them. “You are old, and your heart is dry. You will make good kindling, for your grease has turned hard and will make pitch. You will be the spruce tree. When you grow old, you will always make dry wood that will be good for fires.”

To another creature they said, “You shall be the hemlock. Your bark will be good for tanning hides. Your branches will be used in the sweat lodges.”

A creature with a cross temper they changed into a crab apple tree, saying, “You shall always bear sour fruit.”

Another creature they changed into the wild cherry tree, so that the new people would have fruit and could use the cherry bark for medicine.

A thin, tough creature they changed into the alder tree, so that the new people would have hard wood for their canoe paddles.

Thus the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things got the world ready for the new people who were to come. They made the world as it was when the Indians lived in it.

 

*** Did you like this post? I have more coming that show trees in all of their seasons. Stay tuned!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

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