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Prairie crabapple

Flowers of prairie crabapple.

Prairie crabapple was once commonly found throughout the Midwest prairies and savannas. Spectacular in bloom, deep pink flower buds open to white flowers. Their fruit is popular with a myriad of wildlife. Unfortunately, prairie crabapple is susceptible to many foliar diseases. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name:

Malus ioensis

All common names:

prairie crabapple, Iowa crabapple

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • Under utility lines

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • medium tree (25-40 feet),
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Mature Height:

20-30 feet

Mature Width:

20-30 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Ornamental Interest:

  • Summer blossoms,
  • Edible fruit,
  • Fragrant flowers,
  • Showy flowers

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • Pink,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Birds,
  • Browsers,
  • Insect pollinators

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Crabapples are adaptable to most soil conditions but prefer full sun in moist, well-drained soil.
Light pruning may be required to keep plants healthy or correct structural problems. Thinning the crown allows light into center for better flowering.
Remove dead, diseased and crossing branches at any time.

Disease, pests, and problems

This species is very susceptible to rust.  Other problems include fire blight, canker, borers and scale

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

This species has some resistance to scab.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 3

commonly found in a variety of habitats.

Bark color and texture 

The bark is scaly and peeling, revealing the smooth inner bark.
Stems often have short thorns.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate, dark green leaves without or with three lobes.  Leaf margins are doubly toothed.
If leaf diseases do not defoliate the tree, fall color will be red.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Pink buds open up to clusters of fragrant white or whitish pink flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruits are yellow-green crabapples, about 1 inch in diameter.

Location of Malus ioensis (Prairie crabapple) at the Arboretum