Prairie Crab Apple

Malus ioensis
Rosaceae (roses)

A large shrub to small tree with low, crooked branches; thicket forming from suckers.

Leaves alternate, simple, 1½–5 inches long, ¾–4 inches wide, variable; egg-shaped to widest in the middle and tapering at both ends, margin with shallow lobes, toothed; upper surface dark green, shiny, smooth; lower surface pale with white, densely matted hairs.

Bark thin, reddish-brown to gray, grooves shallow, scales narrow and persistent.

Twigs reddish-brown to gray, with densely matted hairs early; pores small and pale; twigs often with short lateral shoots or spurs, some spurs ending in a thorn.

Flowers April–May. Fragrant clusters of 2–5 flowers; flower stalks very hairy; petals 5, white or pink; cuplike green receptacle at the base of the petals densely hairy; stamens numerous.

Fruits August–September. Fleshy, applelike, about ¾-1¼ inches long, ¾-1½ inches wide, globe-shaped, greenish to yellow, sometimes with tiny yellow dots; surface waxy, greasy; pulp bitter, sour.

Height: to 20 feet; thicket-forming.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in prairies, open woods, thickets, along streams, in borders of woods and in pastures. Cultivated for ornamental use. A variety called Bechtels crab apple is double-flowering and is often planted in parks and gardens.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Human connections: 
An attractive ornamental tree whose hard, bitter fruits can nevertheless be used in making tasty jellies, cider and vinegar.
Ecosystem connections: 
The fruit is eaten by at least 20 species of birds and mammals, including bobwhite, ruffed grouse, foxes, skunks, opossums, raccoons, rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels and deer. Songbirds use the dense thickets for cover.
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