Common Apple Tree
Malus sylvestris

An example of a Common Apple tree (10).


The Common Apple tree is a small deciduous tree ranging from about 4 to 10 meters in height.The bark of the Common Apple tree is often gray, broken and scaly and the leaves are typically broad, flat, simple and finely toothed.In the spring white to pink flowers can found blooming on the tree, eventually fruit will form known as an apple.The fruit of the Common Apple tree is at least one inch in diameter and can be shades of red, green or yellow (6).

Location On Campus

On the Nazareth College campus, an example of the Common Apple tree can be found between the horse pastures and George Hall.


Native Habitat and Current Range 



The Common Apple tree originated in western Asia and spread throughout Europe in ancient times.It was brought to North America by 1800 and because of its wide variety of uses quickly spread throughout the north and northeast (6). It was brought to North America by travelers from Europe and spread throughout the North and Northeast by the famed Johnny Appleseed. Currently, Malus sylvestris can be found growing throughout North America from Washington to New York as long as there are proper growing conditions (8).  


Optimal Growing Conditions


Malus sylvestris (1).

Common Apple trees are adapted to a variety of growing conditions.They can be found growing in gardens from Canada all the way down to central Florida.No matter the type of apple tree, a great deal of moisture and full sunlight are required to ensure the health of the tree.Adequate levels of potassium, calcium and boron also help to promote good growth and quality fruit.It is often beneficial to provide the tree with a yearly two-inch layer of compost (7).


Economic Importance



Apples are economically important primarily as a source of food.People buy apples to eat raw, and to use in pies, pastries, cookies and other foods.In New York State, apples are of especially great economic importance.New York is the #2 producer of apples in the country, producing more commercial varieties of apples than any other state(5).Fruit and nut crops comprise about 5.1% of the total farm income in the United States, (approximately $10,020,000,000!).Of these, apples account for $1,150,387,000, making it the third most important fruit crop as a source of income for farmers (9).


Ethnobotanical and Cultural Information

Blossoms on Malus sylvestris (2).

Apples have become a mainstay in American culture and are incorporated into many aspects of American life, such as the popular quote, "as American as apple pieĒ demonstrates.††† Apples also provide a variety of activities for many Americans.Thousands of Americans pick their own apples each fall, drink apple cider, and partake in apple festival activities (5).Johnny Appleseed is also an icon of American culture.Elementary school children across the United States learn about Johnny Appleseedís journey to plant apple trees throughout the midwestern United States (3).Medicinally, parts of the Common Apple tree may be used in the production of astringents, laxatives and diuretics.Apple tree bark and apple peels may be used in teas and are said to relieve such illnesses and pains as fever, boils, insect bites, toothaches, and rheumatism.Apples are very nutritious and it is a common idea that "an apple a day, keeps the doctor away" (4).††


Fascinating Facts



         The world's largest apple peel was made by sixteen year old Kathy Wafler Madison on October 16, 1976, in Rochester, NY.  The peel measured 172 feet, 4 inches long.  She grew up to be a sales manager for an apple tree nursery (8).

         America's oldest apple tree was planted in 1647 by Peter Stuyvesant in his orchard in Manhattan and was still fruiting when a derailed train struck it in 1866 (8).

         The first apple nursery was opened in Flushing, New York in 1730 (8).

         One of George Washington's hobbies was pruning his apple trees (8).

         Fifty leaves must provide energy in order to produce one apple (8).

Other interesting sites

Apple pie and custard (1).
United States Apple Association website.  Includes interesting facts, press releases about apples, frequently asked questions and famous and funny quotations about apples.
A web page about New York state apple country.  Includes recipes, apple festival calendar, and directory of places to pick your own apples.
A web page created by the University of Illinois.  Contains information about the history of apples, apple education, interesting and little known facts, recipes and a plethora of other information.
A botanical website include information about apple history and medical uses.
An interesting and fun site for kids, with apple juice information for adults as well.


References: Articles, Books, Reference Materials, and the Web



1.      Britton, Ian. Accessed 12/2/03

2.      Cook, Bill.  Accessed 12/2/03.

3. Accessed 11/18/03

4.      Internet Enterprises.  Accessed 12/2/03.

5.      New York Apple Association.  Accessed11/18/03

6.      Ohio Public Library Information Network. Accessed 11/18/03.

7.      Reid, Dale.  Accessed 11/18/03

8.      University of Illinois Extension.  Accessed 11/18/03

9.      Welbaum, Greg.  Accessed 11/18/03

10.  West, Jan. Accessed 12/2/03

Created by:  Jenica Harmon



Nazareth College

Plant Biology 2003