Northern Ontario Plant Database
Malus pumila Mill.
En: sweet apple, paradise apple
Rosaceae (Rose Family)
General: A small deciduous tree, usually 4.5—9 m tall. Naturalized common apple trees have all spread from cultivated stock. Apple cultivars are quite variable in fruit colour and sweetness; common cultivars include 'Red Delicious,' Golden Delicious,' 'Granny Smith,' 'Fuji,' 'McIntosh,' 'Rome,' and 'Cortland.'
Stems/twigs: Winter twigs are reddish-brown to grayish-brown with scattered white lenticels, sparsely hairy to glabrous on older branches; spur shoots are often present. Buds are alternate, ovate, blunt (obtuse), and scaly, with dark red bud scales, usually coated with a dense layer of pale gray or white hairs, especially near the apex. Trunks have smooth reddish-gray bark with irregular grayish sections that flake off.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, petiolate, and pinnately veined. Petioles are 2—4 cm long and downy. Leaf blades are elliptic, lanceolate, oblong, or ovate, 4—9 cm long by 3.3—5.5 cm wide, yellowish-green to dark green and slightly hairy above; the lower surface is densely hairy with woolly white hairs. Leaf bases are tapering (cuneate), rounded, or slightly cordate; apices are pointed (acute), blunt (obtuse), or rounded; margins are toothed (crenate or crenate-serrate) with blunt to rounded teeth.
Flowers: Several showy pinkish-white fragrant flowers are arranged in umbel-like clusters (cymes) on short spur shoots; individual flower stalks (pedicels) are hairy and 1—3 cm long. Flowers are 3.3—5 cm across with a hypanthium; they have 5 narrowly lanceolate reflexed calyx lobes, downy-white on the outer surface, 5 ovate white petals, pink-tinged on the outer surface and abruptly narrowed at the base (clawed petals), 20 stamens with yellow anthers, and a pistil with an inferior ovary and 5 styles. Flowers bloom after leaves have emerged.
Fruit: Apples are a type of accessory fruit (pomes), 3—10 cm in diameter, relatively large and globose, indented at the base and top, and edible, with tart to sweet whitish flesh. The top of each fruit bears the persistent, reflexed calyx lobes. Apples are finely hairy when young, but glabrous at maturity. Depending on the cultivar, they may have red, yellow, or green skin. Each pome contains a 5-lobed cartilaginous core with 1—2 ovoid brown seeds in each section.
Habitat and Range: Apple trees are native to Eurasia; they persist in old orchards, fields, and disturbed ground, and have spread from cultivation along forest borders, paths, and roadsides, often growing from seeds in cores discarded by humans.
Similar Species: There are many cultivars of the common apple; these are more likely to be found along rights-of-way than crabapples, which have glabrous to slightly hairy leaves that are often shallowly lobed along the margins. In the Algoma region, two crabapple species are sometimes planted: the sweet crabapple (Malus coronaria (L.) Mill.), native to southern Ontario, has yellow-green pomes, to 2.5 cm across, and flowers with red anthers; the ornamental Siberian crabapple (Malus baccata (L.) Borkh.) has small yellow or red pomes, about 1 cm across.Back to species list