Pacific Crab Apple

Common Names
Pacific Crab Apple, Oregon Crab Apple, Crab Apple

First Nation Names
Hul’q’umi’num: Qwa'up-ulhp (Seymour et al., 2015)



The plants basic ID description is a shrub or tree from 2-12 m tall, and leaves are egg shaped turning red or orange-yellow in the fall (MacKinnon, et al., 2004, p.48). The flowers must be cross pollinated by an animal vector, and are white to pink (Echeverria, 2013). The fruits, apples, go from green to yellow or reddish and are egg-shaped, small, and very tart (MacKinnon, et al., 2004, p.48). The fruits have 3-4 chambers with 1-2 seeds each (Echeverria, 2013).

Bark contains cyanide (Echeverria, 2013).

Current Distribution and Local Habitat
Pacific Crab Apple (Malus fusca) trees are native plants to the west coast of North America, from Alaska to Washington (MacKinnon et al., 2004, p.48). Botanist believe that Pacific Crab Apple trees have spread to North America from the Beringia during the late Pleistocene (Echeverria, 2013, p. 4), which is now the area between Canada and Russia. Nowadays, plants can be found in moist woods, swamps, edges of standing and flowing water, upper beaches, and fringing estuaries (MacKinnon et al., 2004, p.48).

Ethnobotanical Uses:
The cultural uses for the Pacific Crabapple Tree are diverse and endless. Echeverria found 63, and counting, medicinal, technological, food-related, and cultural narratives for Pacific Crab Apple trees amongst 20+ cultural Indigenous groups (2013). For example, the bark could be used with other plant products for a variety of medicinal treatments, but contain cyanide and should be used with caution. The bark could be used to treat stomach and eye issues. In addition, multiple distinct Indigenous groups would carve the wood of the Pacific Crab Apple into digging sticks and use them for harvesting and preparing clover. Of course, the apples are edible and can be eaten as fruit, and this was common amongst different Indigenous groups. But it is important to remember Pacific Crabapple trees is part of traditional narratives and storytelling, as well as providing nourishment for birds, bear, deer, and more.

To view a Prezi on how to make Pacific Crab Apple Granola Bars click here!


Written by: Cristina Eva Garofalo November 30, 2017.

Echeverria, V. W. (2013). Moolks (Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca) on the North Coast of British Columbia : Knowledge and Meaning in Gitga'at Culture(Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Victoria . Retrieved from

MacKinnon, A., Pojar, J., Alaback, P. B., Antos, J., Goward, T., Lertzman, K. P., Vitt, D. H. (2004). Plants of the Pacific Northwest coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska (Revised ed.). Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine Pub.

Seymour, C., Charlie, A., & Jim, I. (2015, November 12). HUL'Q'UMI'NUM words: Qwa'up-ulhp. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from crab apple tree.

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