Crab Apple - Malus sylvestris


Shrub or tree to 10 metres. Flowers pinkish or white 30 to 40 mm in rounded clusters, fragrant. Fruit the familiar apple but smaller than the domestic apple, usually yellow or yellow/green. Under surfaces of mature leaves and the pedicels are hairless.

Similar Species

Orchard Apple (Malus pumila or domestica) is similar but has hairy leaf undersurfaces and pedicels and usually has larger fruit - however, the two species can be very hard to tell apart.  Self-set orchard apples often have small yellowish sour fruits.

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

Leaves glabrous when mature; pedicels and outside of calyx glabrous

Recording advice

Photos showing underside of mature leaves, pedicels (flower-stalks) and calyx.  It is not possible to verify this from general photos or from fruits


Woods and hedgerows.

When to see it

May to June.

Life History


UK Status

Quite common in most of Britain.

VC55 Status

Once thought to be quite common in Leicestershire and Rutland - In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 494 of the 617 tetrads. Now thought to have been over-recorded instead of orchard apple, which is commonly naturalised


Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map

Species profile

Common names
Crab Apple
Species group:
Trees, Shrubs & Climbers
Records on NatureSpot:
First record:
11/05/1992 (John Mousley;Steve Grover)
Last record:
19/03/2022 (Nicholls, David)

Total records by month

% of records within its species group

10km squares with records

The latest images and records displayed below include those awaiting verification checks so we cannot guarantee that every identification is correct. Once accepted, the record displays a green tick.

In the Latest Records section, click on the header to sort A-Z, and again to sort Z-A. Use the header boxes to filter the list.

Latest images

Latest records

Photo of the association

Bohemannia pulverosella

The larvae create a distinctive blotch mine in the leaves of Apple. The larva cuts an exit hole on the underside of the leaf, which distinguishes the mine from that of Ectoedemia atricollis.

Photo of the association

Rosy Apple Aphid

The aphid Dysaphis plantaginea induces yellowish crumpled leaf galls on apple in spring. The aphids within can be green or red.

Photo of the association

Rosy Leaf-curling Aphid agg.

The Dysaphis devecta species group includes three species: D. devecta, D. anthrisci and D. chaerophylli. All members of the D. devecta group roll the edges of apple leaves and turn them red to produce a characteristic gall.

Photo of the association

Woolly Apple Aphid

Eriosoma lanigerum wingless females (apterae) are purple, red or brown and are the most often recorded form of this aphid.  They are usually found on their secondary host – Apple - causing lumpy irregular galls on branches, which become woody and persist after the aphids have left.  The aphid is a considered to be a pest of orchards and can cause damage to the tree.  

The aphids are covered in thick white flocculent (woolly) wax. This is produced by distinct wax glands on the head and along the thorax and abdomen. The body length of Eriosoma lanigerum apterae is 1.2 to 2.6 mm.