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Apple (Malus x domestica)

Apple is a deciduous tree which is grown worldwide for its fruits, there are over 7,500 cultivated varieties.

Common name: apple

Scientific name: Malus x domestica

Family: Rosaceae

UK provenance: non-native

Interesting fact: there are more than 7,500 cultivars of apple around the world, each with different characteristics. Depending on their qualities, some of these varieties are grown specifically to eat raw, cook or make cider with.

What does apple look like?

Overview: small to medium-sized trees up to 10m high.

Leaves: dark green and typically oval in shape with serrated edges. Underneath, the leaves are slightly furry or woolly.

Flowers: five-petalled and white, with hints of pink. They grow in clusters, known as blossom, and put on a stunning display in May and June.

Fruits: large green to red fruits can be sweet or sour. Carpels form as the fruit develops, that hold dark brown seeds.

Look out for: its leaves are slightly woolly above and densely woolly below. Its large green to red fruits.

Could be confused with: crab apple (Malus sylvestris), which is native to the UK. Domestic apple has much larger fruits than crab apple but it can hybridise with crab apple bringing about forms which shows characteristics of the two.

Identified in winter by: its bark is typically grey in colour and often has bumps, scales or ridges.

Where to find apple

Apple often escapes and can be found naturalised in hedgerows and thickets throughout the UK. These are small trees of hedgerows, scrub, copses, roadsides and rough ground, usually occurring as single trees.

Domesticated apple originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, and were taken to North America by European colonists.

Value to wildlife

Apples are an important food source to wildlife, thrushes feast off fallen fruit and bullfinches are partial to the buds. Bushy specimens are excellent nesting spots for blackbirds.

Mythology and symbolism

Norse mythology portrays the apple as the fruit of eternal youth and also fertility. The apple is generally seen as a forbidden fruit throughout Greek mythology and in Christian tradition as the symbol of temptation, knowledge and sin.

How we use apple

The fruit of the tree is grown for eating, cooking and cider production. The timber is not widely used unless for fine carving and speciality wood objects. it is not widely available in large sizes and can be difficult to work with due to a high density.


Edible apple species are often susceptible to aphids, mussel scale, which is a sap sucking insect and codling moth, whose caterpillars bore into the ripe fruits and feed off the core.

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