Among the many fine crab apples is the Sargent, which has been around for over a hundred years, as well as the River crab. Both of these can be considered heirloom crabs. These trees are excellent choices for landscapes and for home orchards.
River Crab (Malus spectabilis Riversii)
Considered one of the most beautiful crabs when it is in full bloom, this tends to flower and fruit heavily in alternate years.
Suited to zones four through nine, this has been in cultivation in England since the late 1800’s. It was discovered prior to 1872 in an English nursery.
It is an open branching tree that can reach 24 feet in height. It is a variety of the Chinese apple. The trees are resistant to some diseases, including fire blight. But they are susceptible to scab.
The pink blooms are richly double with lots of petals. These are 2 inches across. This has the largest double pink blooms of any crab apple. The fruits are 1¼ inch in diameter. These fruits are excellent for cooking.
Sargent crab (Malus sargentii)
Also called Sargent’s crab, it was discovered in 1908. This was originally native to Japan, but it no longer exists in the wild. At least one cultivar is available. This is often sold as a grafted plant. It comes true from seed, and is considered an all-around excellent shrub.
A very dependable, extremely floriferous crab apple, this is among the smallest of the crabs. It can be a bushy shrub or a small, dense branching, wide spreading tree. This reaches about eight feet in height with a spread of about 15 feet or so. This is suited to zones four through nine.
It has excellent resistance to scab and good resistance to fire blight. It also displays excellent resistance to cedar-apple rust and powdery mildew.
The egg shaped foliage can be lobed. Bright green, this is three inches in length. It can turn yellow to bronze in the fall.
This is a late blooming species. With red or pink flower buds, this has single, fragrant, white blossoms and gold anthers. There is a variety with pink flowers. Sometimes, this tree can bloom and fruit heavily in alternate years. However some trees will bloom annually. The blossoms open in clusters.
The cherry-like fruits are bright red or purple. These are ½ inch in diameter. Ripening in the fall, these are almost round. They should be picked in a timely manner once they’re ripe. These fruits are excellent quality, and are suitable for culinary purposes.