Crabapples are part of the same genus as apples, genus Malus. What most distinguishes an apple from a crab apple is size, possibly of both the fruit and the tree itself.
Often crabapples are planted as an ornamental in the garden due to their lovely early blossoms and sometimes the appearance of the fruit. Of the species of crabapple, only four are native to North America. Genus Malus, either native or introduced, can be found throughout North America.
Many varieties of crabapple may be used in similar ways to apples, although many of them are very sour or bitter. They have been used in jams, jellies, and ciders. They may also be used to make a pie, although that might involve quite a bit of cutting!
The wood of the crabapple is used in woodworking projects, but usually the size limits it to smaller objects such as handles and small furniture. It is a popular wood for smoking foods, especially foul and pork.
Like many other wood products, the crabapple has a long list of ailments it has been said to alleviate such as diarrhea. The fruit and other parts of the tree may also help in cleaning the teeth and skin care. Some sources claim ingesting crabapples may reduce the chance of uterine and prostate cancer as well as lower the risk of heart disease, etc.
A site from England with a short review of the tree says its symbolism is associated with love and marriage. Another website discusses apples and crabapples in mythic traditions throughout Europe. Another source links crabapples to Druids and their traditions, saying Druid Day of the Apple is November first. This is celebrated by concocting a bowl of wassail, which includes baked apples, libations, and spices.
JF Schmidt & Son provides a chart which includes bloom color, fruit color and size, as well as tree shape of many varieties of crabapple, only a few of which can be found in Fort Collins City Park.
Finding the Trees in City Park.
Crabapple trees are fairly easy to pick out when they are in bloom. Not all of the trees in the park are identified, but two of the largest and prettiest are on the corner of Mulberry and Jackson Streets, C161 Vanguard Crabapple (Malus Vanguard) and C162 Dolgo Crabapple (Malus Dolgo).
C176 Indian Magic Crabapple is about midway between Mulberry Street and City Park Drive on the east side of Sheldon Drive. This year the tree held its small, raisin-sized fruit into the winter, giving it added visual interest. Blossoms and the later fruit are shown below while the tree in full bloom is at the top of this blog post.
More trees are on the other side of Sheldon Drive along the lake or close to the road. The Adams crabapple (D 208), first of the featured trees on the west side of the street, is closer to the entrance and has lovely pink blossoms.
The two of the marked trees are D 200 David Crabapple and D 201 Thunderchild Crabapple. The David crabapple and its blossoms are shown below.
(C 139) Indian Summer crabapple and (C 141) Red Baron crabapple are nearer to Jackson Street in the vicinity of Field 3. Below is a photo of the Indian Summer tree in bloom and the resulting pomes. These are a darker red than many of the other apples.
The blossoms of the Red Baron are closer to the top of this post. The photo of the tree shows it prior to bloom time. The second photo is of a spur twig.
The Centurion Crabapple (D 205) is almost immediately across from the Indian Magic tree.
There are other crabapples in the park, including a large old tree called simply Crabapple (E 44) near the building at 1715 West Mountain. Two separate Radiant crabapples are tagged. The tree below, (E 32), is on an island in the middle of the south ballpark parking lot. There is a second, untagged crabapple sharing its space.