Crab Apple

Crab Apple

Crab Apple

Malus sylvestris

crab apple: Rosaceaetreeid-crabapple01

Crab apple thrives in heavy soil in hedgerows, woods and areas of scrub and is native to the UK

The crab apple grows singly, and sometimes woods will only have one tree. one of the ancestors of the cultivated apple (of which there are more than 6,000 varieties), it can live to up to 100 years. Mature trees grow to around 10m in height. They have an irregular, rounded shape and a wide, spreading canopy. With greyish brown, flecked bark, trees can become quite gnarled and twisted, especially when exposed, and the twigs often develop spines. This ‘crabbed’ appearance may have influenced its common name, ‘crab apple’.

Leaves: the brown and pointed leaf buds form on short stalks, and have downy hair on their tips, followed by glossy, oval leaves, which grow to a length of 6cm and have rounded triangular teeth.

Flowers: in spring, the sweetly scented blossom is pollinated by bees and other insects, which develops into small, yellow-green apple-like fruits, around 2-3cm across.

Fruits: sometimes the fruits are flushed with red or white spots when ripe. Birds and mammals eat the fruit and disperse the seeds.

Look out for: it has a ‘crabbed’ or spiny appearance because of gnarled and twisted twigs.

Could be confused with: without fruit, it could be confused with other fruit trees in the Rosaceae family.

 It’s wildlife value:

The leaves are food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the eyed hawk-moth, green pug, Chinese character and pale tussock. The flowers provide an important source of early pollen and nectar for insects, particularly bees, and the fruit is eaten by birds, including blackbirds, thrushes and crows. Mammals, including mice, voles, foxes and badgers also eat crab apple fruit.


The apple has always been regarded as a holy tree and since earliest times it has been considered very unlucky to destroy apple trees or an orchard. On the opposite side of the coin, it was said to bring luck to the household if several apples were left on the ground after the harvest to keep the Faere Folk happy. While apple orchards have long been regarded as places where the realms of the Faere Folk meet the mundane world. The apple was one of the seven Chieftain trees and under Brehon law, the unlawful cutting down of an apple tree had to be paid for with a life.

Burnt indoors, apple wood will perfume the whole house, which certainly makes it one of the woods suitable for the Beltaine fire. Some traditional witches will also use apple juice or cider as a libation in their magical workings and seasonal festivities. Apples also make an appearance at Harvest Home suppers and Samhain when ‘bobbing’ is a popular entertainment. To use the time to call back spirits of those who have passed from this world during the previous year, choose an unblemished apple and as the clock finishes striking midnight, stick twelve new pins into the apple. Place the apple in the fire and call the name of the person you wish to contact.

There are numerous spells and charms that involve various parts of the tree (including divination with the blossom), all of which have survived as ‘love’ spells. With a little bit of imagination, most of these can be rendered into useful spells and cast in whatever manner you wish!   It is the special fruit of Otherworld and the pagan festival of Samhain was sometimes called the Feast of Apples. Samhain (or All Hallows) is a good time to observe some those of traditional spells.crab-apple-leaf

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