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


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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


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

UK Map