Apple or Crab Apple?


I live in Toronto and have a question about apple trees. My hobby is bonsai. I have a field apple tree that I collected from a cow pasture in Peterborough to make into a bonsai. I’ve been told by experts that my field apple will not produce blooms or apples like an orchard apple tree (MacIntosh etc.) would. I was told that orchard apple trees are all grafted onto a strong, hardy base… and that base is most likely similar to the field apple that I have. So I was advised to graft branches from the type of apple tree that I want onto the field apple that I have and then, over time, I will have an apple tree that flowers and produces fruit like the orchard apples. I want to try to do this so I was looking for trees where I could cut some small branches to act as scions for grafting. Because I’m creating a bonsai I’d prefer smaller fruit. In my neighbourhood there are a lot of old apple trees that must have been in orchards way back. Now they are trees in someone’s yard. Also there are tons of crabapple trees in the front yards of a lot of homes. On a walk the other day I found a tree in someone’s yard that produced apples (see attached photo) that look like orchard apples but are very small, perfect proportions for bonsai. The tree’s trunk had a definite graft… very straight trunk, then a swelling and then the new trunk. It looked to be fairly old. I googled “small apples” to see what type of tree it was and was surprised to see that it could be a crab apple that is producing these fruits. I always thought that crab apples were really small and either red or yellow… but never “real apple” looking. I also didn’t think crab apple trunks were grafted. So, after that long rambling set up my question is… do you think these small apples are crab apples of legit apples?


Hello – According to an article from the Iowa State University (link below), the main difference between a crab apple and a ‘legit’ apple is the size of the fruit.  The crab apple produces fruit that is generally 2 inches in diameter or less while the apple produces fruit greater than 2 inches in diameter.  As for your question on grafting, crab apples are grafted for the same reason as apples – to ensure the propagated tree is identical to the original source.  On this basis, the fruit in your photo are likely crab apples. While crab apples are frequently grown for the ornamental value of their flowers, the fruit is edible although quite sour and used in jams and jellies.  The larger fruited varieties are generally the best for culinary purposes including the cultivars Whitney, Chestnut and Centennial.  The crab apple in your photo could be one of these cultivars. Try searching Google for pictures of these varieties to see how they match up.   Sounds like a crab apple could be just what you are looking for for your grafting/bonsai project.

Other Resources Used: