Rosaceae (rose family) Malus

Malus spp. apple, crab apple

Crab apple flowers and flower buds, Tresidder Union rear. Sairus Patel, 30 Apr 2019

Crab apples of different species grow wild from England to Japan and in America and have a long history of cultivation. Consequently there are now innumerable varieties of these reliable ornamental trees to choose from. Campus plantings include M. baccata (Siberian crab), M. floribunda (Japanese, or showy, flowering crab), and M. purpurea (Aldenham crab). Japanese flowering crabs are in the Bechtel Courtyard lawn at Littlefield Center and at the back of Tresidder Union at Santa Teresa Street. The varieties ‘Callaway’ and ‘Prairifire’ are at Bing Nursery School. Crab apples used to be seen in the Old Union main courtyard (see the 2004 map of Old Union).

Crab apples, Littlefield Center. Sairus Patel, 14 Mar 2017

Trees for ornamental purposes or for shade have been developed by selective cultivation for thousands of years in some parts of the world; fruit trees have an even longer history. However, it is rare to find fruit trees in our public spaces. Apples, avocados, guavas, jujubes, kumquats, lemons, loquats, olives, oranges, persimmons, pomegranates, strawberry trees, and walnuts are among the few exceptions.

At 657 Santa Ynez Street there are apple varieties: ‘Spitzenberg,’ ‘Roxbury Russet’, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, and ‘Pitmaston Pineapple’. Continuing around the corner onto Salvatierra Street we find ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’, ‘Golden Russet’, and ‘Irish March’.

In the United States, 2500 apple varieties are grown by a total of about 9000 growers, but 15 varieties account for 90 percent of the crop. At the time of writing the store price was about a dollar a pound. The growers sell them for 30 cents a pound, their cost of production is 40 cents a pound. Federal subsidy makes up for this “market loss.”

As the world’s No. 1 fruit, the apple has a history far older than all others, having been picked by Eve, who was cynically deceived by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Atalanta the huntress, cared for by a she-bear after having been exposed at birth, could outrun anyone but was snared by the wily Milanion with the aid of apples unfairly provided by Aphrodite. Snow White was the victim of a poisoned apple prepared by the wicked queen. Watch out ladies! On the bright side, an apple figured in saving the life of the son of William Tell.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005.