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Native Plants Series: American Crabapple

Here we go! Our first Native Plants Series post of the year! I will have two for you each month. Sorry I was a little late getting these first two months transferred over from IG!

The American crabapple tree (Malus coronaria) is native to Eastern North America.

A smaller understory tree, it grows to 15-30' tall. It prefers a sunny site but will grow in part shade. Pale pink flowers bloom in spring, giving way to yellow fruits. The flowers attract both native and honeybees. The fruits provide food for birds and other mammals. Here in SC PA, it is a caterpillar host plant for 287 species of moths and butterflies.

A note that applies to all native trees: it's important to underplant native trees with shrubs and perennials rather than have lawn grass beneath them. Most moths and butterflies spend some of their life cycle underground. If you have lawn under your native trees, those insects won't be able to burrow underground through the dense grass and compacted soil. You will essentially be attracting native insects to your landscape and then killing their next generation.

If you are choosing a cultivar rather than a straight species, avoid trees that have been modified to have red/purple leaves - recent research has shown that caterpillars cannot eat these leaves.

Sources: National Wildlife Federation, USDA, NC State Extension

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