What is Malus?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2019
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Malus is a genus of shrubs and trees that includes about 35 species. The genus is famous for its fruit, commonly known as apples. Usually, Malus species are found in the Northern Hemisphere and can grow in a wide range of climates. Natively, the trees grow in North America, Europe and Asia. They are relatively small compared to other species, with the largest growing to about 40 feet (12 meters) in height, although most are much smaller than this.

Leaves of Malus trees are usually a maximum of 4 inches (about 10 cm) in length, with some being as small as 1 inch (about 3 cm). The trees have a dense covering of foliage over a thick network of small twigs. Many of the trees flower during the late part of spring, although the exact date varies with the species. The flowers typically have five petals that bloom in a wide range of colors.

Fruits of the Malus trees are globe-like and typically grow to about 3 inches (8 cm) in width. There are some species, such as the Orchard Apple, which has fruit much larger than this. The center of Malus tree fruit usually contains one or two seeds, with some species containing three.


Although certain types of apples are eaten across the world, many species actually have inedible fruit. This is usually because the fruit is too sour to eat. Crab apple trees are an example of a species commonly grown for their fruit, which is used in certain types of juice. These trees are also grown for aesthetic reasons, as they have attractive flowers.

Apple trees reproduce via cross pollination. This takes place through insects such as bees, which visit the flowers of one tree for nectar and then transfer pollen on their backs. No natural Malus trees can self pollinate, so reproduction relies on insects and other animals.

One of the most important species is the Malus domestica. This species produces edible, sweet apples, and is considered to be one of the most heavily cultivated trees in the world. Natively, the tree is from Asia, but today it is grown worldwide. The trees are relatively small, with dense foliage and white flowers. The tree typically blossoms during the middle of spring and is deciduous.

Some examples of Malus include the Southern Crab, Sweet Crabapple and European Wild Apple. A number of species have been cultivated for specific purposes as well. For example, some cultivars are self pollinating.



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