The apple (Malus spp.) is a beloved home and garden fruit tree across most of the Northern Hemisphere. Apples are a prolific and nutritious fruit which possess numerous eating, cooking, and storage uses. Apple trees have beautiful spring blossoms, and are available in a wide variety of growing habits to enhance any landscape design.
Apples are a combination of two trees: the stock, which comprises the root and main stem structure; and the graft or scion, which comprises the upper limbs. The type of apple produced is determined by the scion variety.
Crabapples and apples are varieties within the same Malus genus. According to Tree Help, an online tree-care resource and supplier, the nomenclature "crabapple" is applied as a description to apple trees with fruit of less than 2 inches in diameter.
Apples are otherwise classified based on their intended use. Fresh eating types include Jonagold, Red Delicious and Honeycrisp, while baking types include Macoun, Granny Smith and Stayman.
Apple tree size is determined by the type of root stock on which the varietal scion is grafted. According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, the term "seedling" is used in the apple industry in reference to apple trees grown on a naturally-determined full-size stock. Seedling trees should be spaced 18 feet apart and will grow 20 or more feet high.
MM111 stock trees grow to 80 percent of the size of a seedling stock tree, while M9 stock trees grow to only about 30 percent of the size of a full-grown tree and can be planted spaced as little as 4 feet apart. For container growing, columnar apples are now available which grow only as a single vertical stalk which may reach 8 feet high but can be easily pruned back to the desired height. These slender trees can be planted in individual pots or in the ground as close as 2 feet apart.
According to the Purdue University Extension's Midwest Apple Improvement Association, apples originated in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan through the civilizations of the Nile, Yellow, and Indus river valleys by 8000 B.C. Today, apple trees grow throughout the temperate climate regions of the world, both as cultivated crops and as feral specimens growing wild in woods as passing evidence of abandoned farms and villages.
Human history is rich with apple lore. The Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the biblical story of Eden is often depicted as an apple, and the creation myths of most temperate-climate cultures includes an fruit-filled paradise garden including apple trees. Apples have long been touted as healthful; the Purdue University Extension reports that Hippocrates recommended apples for digestion in 200 A.D.
Apple trees produce an abundance of fruit which can be eaten fresh, cooked or baked, and pressed for juice and cider which can also be turned into vinegar or alcohol-containing beverages. Apple trees are decorative, with beautiful early spring blooms that can also be forced on branches, cut and brought indoors in late winter.