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Treat Mom to crabapple trees at McBride Arboretum

Register • Apr 27, 2014 at 8:00 PM

As April leads into May, Ohio should soon be awash in the beauty of flowering trees.

One of the most popular of these is the flowering crabapple, an abundance of which can be seen right here in Erie County in the James H. McBride Arboretum on the BGSU Firelands Campus. As you walk, you can observe the wide variety of features of the different cultivars of this tree.

The spectacular display of spring blossoms is the first feature most people recognize. Ornamental crabapples usually flower the first two weeks of May. The blossoms range in color from white to pink to a deep red.

The buds can appear as a deep pink to open to a spectacular display of white. Different petal varieties include single with 5 petals, semi-double with 6 to 10 petals, or double with more than 10 petals.

Summer attraction comes from foliage and fruit. The foliage is usually dark or olive green on top with paler green underneath though some cultivars have purple leaves. The leaves are small, two to three inches in length, with a simple oval shape and alternate attachment.

The leaf margins can be finely serrated or irregularly toothed or lobed. In autumn some cultivars have outstanding color, yellow to red.

The fruit of the crabapple also attracts interest. The crabapple, like the apple, is in the rose family, Rosaceae, in the genus Malus. The distinguishing feature is the size of the fruit. Crabapples have fruit less than two inches.

The color of the fruit varies from green and yellow to red. On some cultivars, it remains on the tree throughout the winter. It is edible and is a source of food for wildlife. It can be used in jams or jelly, usually sweetened and spiced.

Mature crabapples range in size from 8 to 40 feet and come in varying shapes. Look for weeping, horizontal, columnar, vaseshaped, and pyramidal. The shape and size make them adaptable to many locations in the landscape. The tress like full sun exposure and do well in the cold Ohio winters.

Crabapples, like apples, are susceptible to some disease including apple scab and fireblight. Apple scab, a fungal disease, appears as dark leathery spots on the leaves and fruit. It can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall prematurely.

Fireblight is a bacterial disease causing the death of the terminal shoots and a curvature called a “shepherd’s crook . Metroparks workers and volunteers will remove the blighted branches and shoots to protect the tree.

Crabapples also produce suckers, rapidly growing shoots from the roots of the tree. These will also be removed.

The James H. McBride Arboretum features a collection of flowering crabapples of over 40 varieties. These line the walk on the left side of Parker Lake after entering at the visitor center.

Cultivars include “Sugar Tyme , a 15 to 18 foot variety with white flowers, “Red Jewel , a 10 to 15 foot variety with white flowers and red fruit, and “Strawberry Parfait, a variety with upright growth, pink flowers and yellow fruit with a red blush.

To encourage the development of disease resistant cultivars, the arboretum has shared crabapple evaluation with the Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, Ohio.

For an in-depth commentary on the varieties of crabapple, see “Aesthetic Evaluation of Crabapples at the Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, Ohio: 1993-1994” Or just take a walk – enjoy the beauty of the crabapples in bloom as the same time you engage in some healthy exercise.

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