Quick facts

Common name: apple

Scientific name: Malus x domestica

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: non-native

The apple tree is small to medium in size, measuring up to 10m high. 

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

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

What does apple look like?

Credit: Lesley Newcombe / WTML


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

Credit: Tim Scriviner / WTML


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.

Credit: Nature Photographers Ltd / WTML


Large green to red fruits can be sweet or sour, depending on the species. Carpels form as the fruit develops, that hold dark brown seeds.

Not to 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 show characteristics of the two.

Trees woods and wildlife

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Where to find apple

Apple often escapes and can be found naturalised in hedgerows and thickets throughout the UK. These are small trees in hedgerows, scrub, copses, at roadsides and on 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.

Did you know?

Apples are part of the rose family, as are pears and plums.

Value to wildlife

Apples are an important food source for wildlife. Thrushes feast on 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.

Uses of apple

Apples are the most diverse fruit – and in the UK alone we’ve bred more than 2,500 different varieties with names ranging from the familiar Bramley’s Seedling to the rare Broad-Eyed Pippin and Peasgood’s Nonsuch. They are used for eating, cooking and cider production.

The timber tends to be used for fine carving and speciality wood objects rather than everyday items. The wood is not widely available in large sizes and can be difficult to work with due to its high density.

Did you know?

More than 7,000 different varieties of apples have been developed worldwide.

Threats and conservation

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