27 April 2011

Crab Apple

It's not always easy to find Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) in the countryside. Very often, and for most of the year, it occurs as an undistinguished solitary tree in a hedge or a wood. When they are in flower, however, Crab Apple trees are usually outstanding. And this year in particular, they are putting on a great show. The photos here were taken of an old Crab Apple in an ancient hedgerow near Rhos.

Where it occurs, Crab Apple is probably a good indicator of ancient hedgerow or ancient woodland. Records show that it is frequent and widespread in old hedges and woodland in South Wales, but it is never abundant anywhere. However, it is often confused with the domestic Apple (Malus pumila) which is not uncommon outside gardens and orchards. Many records of Crab Apple are misidentifications for the domestic Apple. When in flower, they can be distinguished by the fact that Crab Apple has flower stalks and sepals that are hairless (see below) while those of Apple are usually conspicuously hairy. The leaves of Crab Apple are also hairless, whereas those of Apple are usually hairy on their lower side.

Because it is probably a good indicator of ancient countryside in South Wales, it is important that we obtain an accurate picture of its ditribution.

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