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The European Crabapple Tree

The European crabapple tree is a unique wild plant that has been around for thousands of years. Scientifically known as the Malus sylvestris, the name translates to “forest apple.” Since becoming domesticated, the fruit has had many wonderful uses enjoyed by people all around the world.

Keep reading to learn all about the European crabapple tree, including its history, appearance, culinary uses, and more!

Looking to buy European crabapple seeds? Check availability here.

carbapple tree similar to the european crabapple tree

Characteristics of the European Crabapple Tree

The deciduous European crabapple tree is a unique plant that can live for as long as 80 to 100 years and reach up to 33 feet tall, with a trunk diameter averaging between 9 to 17.5 inches.

When grown in the wild, European crabapple trees have thorns, and the branches’ shorter height and wide spread sometimes make the tree look more like a bush. Wild European crabapples tend to be smaller than the cultivated fruit, and they usually have a harder texture and more tart flavor.

The crabapple tree boasts dark green curved and serrated leaves with pink and white speckled flowers with about four or five petals. The crabapples themselves are small, ranging between two to four centimeters in diameter – anything greater than five centimeters is considered a regular apple!

European crabapples are a greenish-yellow color that matures to red. The fruit has long stems and often looks like large cherries.

History of the European Crabapple

Fruits of an ornamental apple-tree(Malus pumila)

The European crabapple tree is a descendant of Malus sieversii, a wild apple species that originated in the mountains of Central Asia thousands of years ago. This species was domesticated and spread via trade along the Silk Road; thus, various new apple species were created along the way.

To learn about other types of crabapples that came to be over time, check out our post on crabapple tree varieties.

The Malus sylvestris, commonly known as the European crabapple tree, is native to Central Europe. This variety grows in the wild and is believed to be an ancestor of today’s common domesticated apple variety. The tree is rare, although today, it still continues to grow in most European countries!

In the wild, this crabapple tree is a common food source for undomesticated animals, especially birds. The tree typically grows alone or in small groups along forest edges, roadsides, or hedgerows. The tree can grow in an impressive variety of soils, including clay and sand.

Eating and Cooking With the Fruit

closeup of ripe fresh red crabapples as a background
closeup of ripe fresh red crabapples as a background

Are European Crabapples Safe to Eat?

A European crabapple’s leaves, stem, and seeds contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycoside – a natural substance that becomes cyanide when metabolized. Although the dosage is small, cyanide is a toxic chemical that should cautiously be avoided.

As long as the aforementioned parts of the tree are not eaten, these crabapples are completely safe to eat! Take care to avoid the core and seeds while eating your fruit.

If you accidentally swallow a seed or two, don’t worry – you would have to consume a large number of crabapple seeds to feel any negative effects!

How to Eat a European Crabapple

Raw European crabapples are rather tart and acidic; therefore, the fruit is most often cooked before eating. However, the longer the crabapple sits on the tree, the sweeter it will become!

This apple variety is great in pectin, a natural thickener that makes jams and jellies. Their crabapple jelly is delicious on its own, but its high pectin content also makes it a fantastic addition to other fruit jams.

The flavor of these crabapples pairs especially well with raspberries and blueberries. It’s also a great complement to savory flavors – poultry and gamey meats can greatly benefit from European crabapples when they’re roasted or served as a sauce or jam on the side.

Soft, creamy cheeses such as brie and gorgonzola are another great complement to the flavor of European crabapples.

Your crabapples can keep in a cool and dry space for up to a month. To prolong shelf life, this fruit can be placed in the fridge.


Want to try your hand at cooking with European crabapples? Check out these recipes for some delicious inspiration!

Health Benefits

Adding a European crabapple tree to your backyard allows you to reap the many benefits of this unique fruit. These crabapples contain high levels of vitamin C and are very rich in fiber. These fruits contain lots of antioxidants and are great for boosting your immune system.

The presence of vitamin B, potassium, and iron supports cell health, while noteworthy levels of magnesium help with muscle and nerve health. Overall, eating these crabapples is a great source of energy!

Growing a European Crabapple Tree at Home

White springtime blossoms on a crabapple tree.

There are numerous reasons why a European crabapple tree will be the perfect addition to your home garden! This tree has nectar-rich flowers that attract helpful pollinators like bees and butterflies, and birds will thank you for their shelter within the branches.

Crabapple trees are relatively easy to plant and care for, making them a great garden addition for beginners. Although it takes a couple of years for the tree to first bear fruit, the plant puts on a beautiful display while growing – and the crabapples will be well worth the wait!

For a complete guide on how to properly plant your new tree, check out our expert post on how to plant a crabapple tree!


These crabapple trees are not fussy and can thrive in a wide variety of soil types. Clay, sand, silt, and loam soil are all suitable for this type of tree. Regardless of the soil type, maintaining moisture is the best way to ensure steady growth when growing this type of tree.


European crabapple trees can thrive in both partial shade and full sun. However, trees planted in sunny spots typically bear the most fruit!

Care Tips

Although European crabapple trees are easy to grow, keeping an eye on new plants to ensure they stay healthy is important. Pruning a tree is one of the best ways to ensure strength in new plants. To ensure your tree gets the care it needs, check out our guide on how to prune a crabapple tree.

While pruning helps make your tree physically strong, there is still a threat of disease that could affect your new plant. Read our post on crabapple tree diseases to learn about potential threats and what to do when your tree starts to show warning signs!

Where to Buy European Crabapples

European crabapple trees still grow in the wild but are rather difficult to find in the United States. If you’re lucky, it’s possible to find European crabapples at a local farmer’s market. However, the best way to find this type of crabapple is by buying your own seeds to grow at home.

Looking to add a European crabapple tree to your garden? Check out these European crabapple seeds from Etsy.

A Wild Wonder

With such a rich history and many wonderful benefits, the European crabapple tree will make a wonderful addition to your home garden!

Want to learn about different crabapple varieties, growing tips, and more? Check out our other posts on crabapple trees for all you need to know!