Crabapple in Apple Orchard in album apples

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A crabapple tree planted in an apple orchard, showing much smaller fruit, and smaller and more yellowish leaves, than surrounding apple trees

Oct 14th, 2006, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows a crabapple tree growing amongst commercial apple trees in an apple orchard, Milburn Orchards, in Elkton, MD. This orchard is actually closer to Newark, DE than to the center of Elkton, but has an Elkton address.

The crabapple in this picture is visually very distinct from the other apples. It has much smaller, more yellowish leaves, and the fruit are tiny compared to the large red apples nearby. The crabapple has a straight and narrow growth habit and does not take up much space within the orchard.

At first I thought that this lone crabapple tree (and the few others I saw here and there in the orchard) were accidental trees that grew up and were left out of neglect. However, I did some research and learned that these trees are actually an integral part of apple cultivation. Apples grown in a monoculture (i.e. row after row of the same exact cultivar, which are essentially cloned plants, all genetically identical individuals) will not produce a very good crop. By planting other, genetically distinct trees in with the crops, the trees will cross-pollinate and produce a much larger yield. These trees are called a pollinizer. Rather than being wild crabapples that come up naturally, they are often selected on the basis of having blooming times that coincide with the variety of apple being grown.