The marilee crabapple tree (Prunus mirabilis) is one of the most common crabapples in North America. It grows from Mexico southward into South Carolina and Florida. It’s a deciduous tree with large leaves that are dark green above and light green beneath. Its fruit is small, oval shaped, reddish brown, and covered with white hairs. The fruits ripen in late summer or early fall depending upon location where it was found.
Marilee crabapples are commonly called “crab apples” because they resemble crabs. They have a long stem and branches that grow straight up and down. Marilee crabapples are native to Mexico, but there are also cultivated varieties grown commercially in California, Arizona, Texas, New York State and other states in the United States.
There is some controversy over whether these types of crabapples belong in our gardens. Some say they are invasive and should not be planted here; others believe they are beneficial plants that add color and interest to landscapes.
There are many different kinds of marilee crabapples, but all of them look very similar. They tend to have a dark green foliage, although some varieties may be lighter in color than others. The flowers appear in clusters at the base of the tree, which is usually near the trunk.
They are white and bell-shaped. The fruits mature in the late summer to early fall. They are a small oval shape and slightly flattened on the top. The fruits are covered with white hair and have a faint rose color when they are first developing onto the tree. The fruits will slowly ripen to a darker red and then finally brown when the seeds inside are fully developed.
Because crabapples are self-pollinating, you need only one tree to have a good supply of their fruits. Some people like to plant several trees in a row for appearances. These types of crabapple trees are generally small and will not grow very large if they are planted in the right conditions.
The fruit of the crabapple tree is what we are interested in. Crabapples are known for making jellies and other types of juices. They also make wonderful tarts and other types of baked goods.
The prairie rose crabapple tree (Malus ioensis) grows from Minnesota south to Kansas and Missouri. It grows in upland forests, on hillsides and along streams. It is a deciduous tree that can grow up to twenty feet tall, but is usually smaller.
Its leaves are light green and have a medium texture. Its five petaled white flowers bloom in spring and early summer. This crabapple tree’s fruit is smaller than a common apple, but larger than a “jeeper.” It ripens in early autumn.
There are several different types of prairie crabapples. Some of them have fruits that are yellow or red, but they are all edible and have a sweet taste to them. The prairie crabapple tree is also known as “wild apple” because its fruit is similar in taste and appearance to the apple.
It is smaller than a common apple, but larger than a “jeeper.” It ripens in the autumn and can be an orange, yellow or red color.
The prairie crabapple tree is a native of the Missouri and prairie areas. During that time it was found growing wild along streams and waterways. Its white flowers bloom in spring and early summer and its red, yellow or orange fruits mature in the fall.
It grows close to the ground and can survive in dry conditions. Native Americans used the prairie crabapple as food. They also crushed its flowers to make a yellow dye and used the fruit as a laxative. The fruit is edible and has a sweet taste, but it should only be eaten in small quantities because it may also cause nausea or diarrhea if too much is eaten.
The Amelanchier or Serviceberry tree (Amelanchier spp.) grows from the Great Lakes region to the East Coast and as far south as Texas and Missouri. It grows in upland forests, fields, thickets and ravines.
It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow up to thirty feet tall, but is usually smaller. Its oval shaped leaves have a rough texture and its bell-shaped flowers bloom in spring. This Amelanchier tree’s fruit is small and round and ripens in late spring or summer.
Amelanchier fruits are edible and have a sweet flavor. Native Americans ate them fresh or dried them for future use.
Sources & references used in this article:
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The Flowering Crabapple by RE Durham, RE McNeil, JR Hartman… – Univ. of Kentucky, Coop …, 1999 – ca.uky.edu
Study on relationship between pollen exine ornamentation pattern and germplasm evolution in flowering crabapple by WX Zhang, MM Zhao, JJ Fan, T Zhou, YX Chen… – Scientific reports, 2017 – nature.com
Relative susceptibility of woody landscape plants to Japanese beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) by DW Held – Journal of Arboriculture, 2004 – researchgate.net
Crabapples in the Landscape by SM Hansen, J Gunnell, S Vaughn – 2019 – digitalcommons.usu.edu
Inheritance of vigour tree in F1 apple interspecific hybrids by RE SESTRAS, D Pamfil, AF SESTRAS… – Notulae Botanicae …, 2009 – notulaebotanicae.ro
Flowering Crabapple, Malus spp. by GA Moulton, RR Maleike, J King – 1996 – Pullman, Washington: Washington …