Crabapple trees are apple trees that bear fruits smaller than 2 inches across. Because these fruits tend to be sour or bitter, they are used primarily in preserves and jellies where they are sweetened. Mostly the real value of these trees is ornamental. They boast wonderful flowers that are much showier than regular apple trees. Many have fruit that is even smaller than most edible crabapples.
Many crabapple trees hold their small fruits all winter, providing food for birds such as pheasants, mockingbirds, white-throated sparrow, northern flickers and finches. Squirrels and white-tail deer also enjoy crabapples and provide cleanup duty for those that fall on the ground.
While there are hundreds of cultivars of crabapple trees. most crabapples available in the garden center are hybrids or clones that have been developed to be more disease resistant than the species. In fact the basic native American Crabapple is probably no longer available for sale because of the disease problems. So in this section I talk about hybrids of the native crabapple as well as of the Japanese Crabapple, the Siberian Crabapple, and the Sargent Crabapple.