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Crabapple (Crania cinnamomea) is a very common species of tree in the temperate zone of North America. Crabapples are commonly known as crab apples because they resemble crabs.
They grow from trees up to 40 feet tall and have small red fruits with a black center. These fruits are edible when ripe but not eaten raw like many other types of apple or pears. The fruit is used mainly for cider making and preserves.
Crabapple is native to northern Europe, Asia Minor, southern Russia and China. It was introduced into the United States in 1783.
Its name comes from its resemblance to a crab’s claw and the fact that it bears fruit resembling crabs’ claws. There are several cultivars of crabapple grown commercially today including the “Duke” variety which is the most popular.
The seeds of crabapple contain cyanide and are poisonous if ingested. However, eating them does not cause poisoning since the poison is absorbed through the skin rather than swallowed.
The flesh of crabapple contains no toxic effects and is safe to eat even after ripening in storage or refrigeration. When fresh, crabapple tastes similar to an orange with a hint of spice. Its taste is slightly astringent and it can be made into jelly, preserves, fruit butter, or added to cider or wine.
Crabapple is not usually eaten fresh but rather made into jellies and jams. It is an ingredient in many commercial drinks and preserves.
Due to its size it is not practical for cooking. The wood of the crabapple is very hard and has little grain contrast so it’s rarely used in cabinetry or woodworking. It is used mainly for exterior purposes such as wooden fences and trellises.
Crabapple trees are dioecious, meaning they are either male or female. Male trees produce flowers that look like crab apples and smaller leaves than the female.
Female trees are the ones that produce the edible fruit.
Crabapples are susceptible to a disease called black knot which causes black colored growths on the branches and twigs of the tree. The tree can usually be saved if the affected parts are removed before the disease spreads.
Crabapple trees grow best in full sun but can tolerate some shade. They grow well in loam, silt and clay type soils as well as coarse sand but they do not tolerate wet conditions.
They need moderate precipitation, around 32 inches of water per year. Because of their high tolerance for different types of soil they are very easy to find and grow in most locations.
They grow from seed but can be vegetatively propagated (cloned) by hardwood cuttings, which are best taken in mid summer. They also reproduce from seed which need 12 months of cold stratification before they will germinate.
Another way to propagate crabapples is by layering. This entails bending a branch down so that it touches the ground and covering it with soil. The following spring it will have rooted where it touches the ground.
Crabapples are susceptible to several types of pests and diseases including aphids, scales, mites, root rot, cankers and apple scab. Scale insect infestation causes leaves to turn yellow and drop prematurely.
Scale insects cluster under the wings and around the legs and arrive on the tree by wing. Aphids are tiny sucking insects that cause leaves to curl downward.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Rooted in Design: Sprout Home’s Guide to Creative Indoor Planting by T Heibel, T de Give – 2015 – books.google.com
Planting wetlands and dams: A practical guide to wetland design, construction and propagation by N Romanowski – 2009 – books.google.com
Studies in Growth and Differentiation. III. The Distribution of Calcium and Phosphate in the Tissues of’Kleinia articulate’and some other Plants by D Thoday, H Evans – Annals of Botany, 1932 – JSTOR
Growing with gardening: A twelve-month guide for therapy, recreation, and education by B Moore – 1989 – books.google.com
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