Both wild animals and humans have depended on edible wild fruit trees as a food source for centuries. It is the fruit of a wild fruit tree that is usually considered edible; many times the wood, seeds or leaves are not edible. Today, a relatively small amount of people regularly eat the fruit of wild fruit trees; still, edible wild fruit trees produce delicious fruit that can be used for canning and fresh use if the fruit is harvested at the right time of year.
Wild apple trees do not produce the flawless apples seen in the grocery store. The apples produced by a wild apple tree are often scarred from insect damage. However, the inside of the fruit may be perfectly good to eat. The best way to identify an apple is to cut the fruit in half at the "equator" of the fruit. If it is an apple, the seeds will be positioned into a five pointed "star". However, wild apples look enough like apples seen in the grocery store to be easily identifiable.
Wild apple trees grow to 40 feet tall and produce clusters of five-petaled blooms of pink or white in the spring. The oblong leaves are up to 2 inches long with serrated edges. The branches of a wild apple tree are covered with distinctively large, sharp thorns.
The Paw Paw tree is native to the Southeastern United States. The cone-shaped tree grows up to 20 feet tall. Paw Paw trees often grow in thickets as new plants spread from the roots of the main plant. The leaves of the Paw Paw tree are wide and tropical looking, up to 1 foot long and have a drooping habit. Paw Paw fruit ripens in late summer after the tree produces its distinct reddish-brown flowers.
The 5- to 6-inch-long fruits resemble plump green mangoes with brown spots and they contain up to 12 large seeds that look like black Lima beans. The pulp of the fruit is yellow and tastes like a banana when the fruit is completely ripe.
Wild plum is seen as a low-growing thorny shrub or a tree that grows up to 20 feet tall. Taller trees have a round shape, but small shrubs are either sprawling or erect, depending on their growing conditions. The bark of young plum trees is cinnamon brown and smooth. However, it becomes rough with age. The leaves are about 1 inch long with serrated margins and are slightly hairy on both sides.
The wild plum tree produces sweet-smelling white blooms in early spring followed by the oblong 1-inch-long fruit. The fruit ripens to red, orange or purple in mid-summer and has an acidic flavor that is often more sour than sweet. All varieties produce thickets from root suckers that come out of the ground around the main plant. Since a plum thicket is made up of a group of plum trees that come up from the root base of the main tree, a plum thicket looks like a group of plum trees crowded together. Plum thickets can be more than 100 feet wide and long.