Malus ioensis (Prairie Crabapple)

Plant Info
Also known as: Iowa Crab Apple, Wild Crabapple
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:sun; open woods, thickets, stream banks, floodplains, rocky slopes, open fields, fence rows
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:10 to 20 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] Numerous clusters from buds at the tips of short, spur like lateral shoots on young branches, each cluster with 1 to 6 flowers and emerging with the leaves in spring. Flowers are 1 to 2 inches across with 5 pink, round petals, and a cluster of 20 creamy yellow-tipped stamens surrounding the 5 styles in the center. Flowers are very fragrant.

[photo of woolly hairy sepals] The 5 sepals are green to red, shorter than the petals, narrowly triangular, sharply pointed at the tip and become spreading or reflexed (bent downward). Sepals and flower stalks are densely covered in woolly hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, the blade oblong-elliptic to egg-shaped in outline, 2 to 3 inches long and ¾ to 2 inches wide, pointed to rounded at the tip, rounded to wedge-shaped at the base, on a ½ to 1 inch stalk covered in woolly hairs. The upper surface is dark green, hairy when young becoming hairless or nearly so; the lower surface is lighter and covered in woolly hairs especially along the veins. Edges are toothed, sometimes doubly, with pointed or rounded teeth. At least some leaves have up to 3 shallow lobes per side, often the lobes at the base are more pronounced.

[photo of thorny branch] New twigs are reddish brown and covered in woolly hairs, becoming gray and hairless the second year. Branches are wide-spreading with older flowering spurs developing into stout spines to 2+ inches long.

[photo of peeling bark] Older bark is gray, initially forming irregular ridges that later develop into curling strips that peel away to reveal a reddish inner bark. Trunks can reach 5 inches diameter at breast height (dbh). It may form dense thickets from root suckers.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is fleshy, green to yellowish, oval to round, about 1 inch in diameter with a few dark brown seeds inside. It is edible but barely so.


Prairie Crabapple, formerly Pyrus ioensis, is a small tree or large shrub that reaches the northern fringe of its range in Minnesota. While many references state the trunk can reach 10 inches (or more) in diameter, it is typically half that (or less) here. It is similar to the more common cultivated apple trees, the native Plum (Prunus) and some Hawthorn (Crataegus) species. Prairie Crabapple is distinguished by the green fruits, leaves that are often scalloped around the edges and may be shallowly lobed especially near the base, plus the woolly hairs on sepals, flower stalks, leaf stalks and leaf undersides.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Rice and Wabasha counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Le Sueur, Rice and Wabasha counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Uwe Kausch - North Shore of Lake Superior in Duluth Township
on: 2021-04-18 18:36:13

I have several small trees growing in my yard.

Posted by: Michael H. Nee - adjacent Wisconsin
on: 2024-01-13 15:16:18

Keep an eye out for similar shrubs/small trees of ornamental crabapples. They have been planted by the Wisconsin DNR and others for "wildlife habitat" as well as being much valued ornamentals. In counties bordering the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, such as northern Trempealeau County, and further south in Crawford and Richland Counties, various cultivars are naturalizing on a large scale and can become serious invasives in old fields, pastures, wetlands and secondary woods.

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