Crabapple tree identification

Updated November 21, 2016

Crabapple trees can be difficult to identify, especially if they grow close to other apple varieties. However, there are a few characteristics exclusive to the crabapple. You need only to look with care to tell the difference.


Crabapple tree leaves grow to about 3 inches long and darken to a fresh, medium green when fully formed. They have a central vein that neatly bisects each leaf with curving veins radiating diagonally from it. These veins alternate with each other rather than being right across from each other. The leaves' shapes can vary from being long, narrow ovals to being nearly circular with a pointed tip. The tip may be perfectly straight or slightly crooked. All crabapple tree leaves have fine serrations on the edges.


The biggest difference between crabapple trees and other varieties is its fruit. Crabapples grow no larger than about 2 inches in diameter and look like large, green cherries on long, fibrous stems. Trees that produce larger fruit classify as apple trees.

Crabapples turn bright green to green-yellow when they ripen; they rarely turn red, though some varieties may show a pink blush near the middle of the growing season. Crabapples are edible, though they taste very tart compared to their large red cousins.

Flowers and Pollenation

Cultivators value crabapples most for their flowers. Like other apple varieties, crabapple trees blossom with hundreds of flowers in the spring. Crabapple blooms are usually white, though some may have pink tips.

Crabapple trees cannot self-pollinate; they require pollen from another crabapple tree to produce fruit. You can achieve this by planting more than one tree. Other methods include pollination by bees and other insects.


Crabapple trees have greyish-brown bark that appears smooth on young trees and new growth. As the tree grows, the bark splits and tear-like cracks appear. This is normal and does not harm the tree. ] Crabapple tree wood is known for being waterproof. It works well as timber for boats and other projects that require waterproofing.


Crabapple trees grow primarily in the United States, from the colder regions of the country to the warmth of the Southern states, excluding the desert areas. Though common, crabapple trees result from crossbreeding and rarely grow in the wild. Many gardeners and homeowners choose to plant them for landscaping purposes. They make good shade trees, need little care and attract fewer pests than their red fruit producing cousins.

bibliography-icon icon for annotation tool Cite this Article

About the Author