Name: Wild Apples
(Malus pumila and Malus hybrids)
Worldwide, there are about 25 species of the Malus genus, which includes all our domestic apples. According to botanists, all our apples come from the wild crab apple (Malus pumila) and two distinct forms—M. sylvestris (from northern Europe) and M. mitis (from southern and eastern Europe). The apple has been popular as far back in time as we have records and has been domesticated and cloned going back at least as far as ancient Roman times. According to the USDA, there are around 7,000 varieties of that domestic apple.
If you’ve ever seen a domestic apple tree in an orchard or backyard, you know what the tree looks like. In the wild, these will be small trees, often in thickets. You’ll look at the leaves and the fruit, and you’ll say to yourself, “Boy, that sure looks like an apple.” It would be a wild, small crab apple, and it could be any of the many varieties of apples that have gone feral. Each leaf is lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, 1.5 to 4 inches long, pointed, serrated, occasionally with a lobe on one or both margins. It's deep green above, paler beneath.
The floral inflorescence (group or cluster of flowers) typically has five to 12 flowers and is flat topped. There are five white petals, 20 stamens (shorter than the petals) and usually three styles. The fruits are fleshy, round to obovoid and about 10 to 16 millimeters long. The color can range from yellow to purplish red.
Where It’s Found
It can be found in Alaska, south to California and from the west coast to the east coast. It’s found in moist woods, swamps and open canyons from sea level to moderate elevations in the mountains. Apples do best where there’s a winter frost.
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