Malus sylvestris 

Scope: Global & Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Rosales Rosaceae

Scientific Name: Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill.
Common Name(s):
English Crab Apple, European Crab Apple, Pommier Sauvage
Malus communis Desf. subsp. sylvestris (L.)Dippel
Malus praecox (Pall.) Borkh.
Malus sylvestris Desf. subsp. praecox (Pall.) Soó
Pyrus malus L. subsp. sylvestris (L.) Ehrh.
Pyrus sylvestris (L.)Focke
Taxonomic Source(s): WCSP. 2017. World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Available at:
Taxonomic Notes: Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. is a primary wild relative of apple, M. domestica Borkh. (USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program 2010). Three subspecies are native to Europe: M. sylvestris ssp. orientalis (Uglitzk.) Browicz, M. sylvestris ssp. praecox (Pall.) Soó and M. sylvestris (L.) Mill. ssp. sylvestris (Kurtto 2009).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2010-04-16
Assessor(s): Kik, C., Korpelainen, H., Vögel, R., Asdal, Å., Eliáš, P., Draper, D. & Magos Brehm, J.
Reviewer(s): Collett, L. & Nieto, A.
Contributor(s): Kell, S.P.
Global and European regional assessment: Data Deficient (DD)
EU 27 regional assessment: Data Deficient (DD)

Although Malus sylvestris is relatively widely distributed in Europe, hybridization with cultivated M. domestica is thought to be having a significant impact on the population. It is not known to what extent the genetic diversity of the species has been affected; therefore, it is regionally assessed as Data Deficient.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:M. sylvestris is native to many parts of northern, middle, east, southeastern and southwestern Europe (GRIN 2010).

Knowledge of its national distribution in Europe is as follows:
  • Finland: occurs in the southwest.
  • Norway: scattered in the north; more common in south.
  • Slovakia: common throughout the country (Marhold 1992). 
  • Netherlands: widespread (Mennema et al. 1985).
  • Portugal: only in the north.
  • Spain: widespread.
  • France: widespread throughout the most of the country but not recorded in the departments of Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis in the north, Rhône to the east or Lot-et-Garonne to the southwest (Association Tela Botanica 2000–2010).
  • United Kingdom: widespread throughout the whole of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, although its distribution is patchy in northern Scotland (Preston et al. 2002).
  • Ireland: widespread throughout the whole of the country (Preston et al. 2002).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Germany; Greece (Greece (mainland)); Hungary; Ireland; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malta; Moldova; Montenegro; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal (Portugal (mainland)); Romania; Russian Federation (Central European Russia, East European Russia, Kaliningrad, North European Russia, Northwest European Russia, South European Russia); Serbia (Kosovo, Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Spain (mainland)); Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey (Turkey-in-Europe); Ukraine (Ukraine (main part)); United Kingdom (Great Britain, Northern Ireland)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Knowledge of the European subpopulation is available for the following countries:
  • Finland: infrequent.
  • Italy: not very common.
  • Slovakia: stable.
  • Germany: common but hybridized with cultivated plants.
  • Netherlands: before 1950 the species occurred in 124 hour-squares and after 1950 in 628 hour-squares (Mennema et al. 1985). Tamis et al. (2003) reported that the species occurs in 3,001–10,000 1x1 km grid squares.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

In Finland, this species grows in rocky, herb-rich forests, waterfront thickets and forests and rich meadows—it favours limy soil (H. Korpelainen pers. comm. 2010). In the United Kingdom and Ireland it grows in hedgerows, scrub, copses, roadsides and also on rough ground (Preston et al. 2002), while in the Netherlands, it grows in forests and shrubwoods on humid and moderately fertile soils (Tamis et al. 2003). Where the species grows in forest margins, it has to compete with taller forest species. In Iberia, it grows from sea level to 1,800 m, in Germany the maximum altitude is 1,000 m, while in Norway it is 550 m.


Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: M. sylvestris is a primary wild relative of and potential gene donor to apple, M. domestica and is also a widely cultivated ornamental tree. It is sometimes collected from the wild for food (for humans and farmed animals) and for medicinal purposes.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threats are hybridization with M. domestica and forest management, particularly as the species tends to grow in forest margins. As the plants mainly occur as isolated individuals, rather than as viable populations, they are susceptible to events.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Knowledge of the national threat/conservation status of M. sylvestris is available for the following European countries:
  • Germany: Endangered; there is an ongoing rescue management project in place (R. Vögel pers. comm. 2010).
  • Finland: Vulnerable (H. Korpelainen pers. comm. 2010).
  • Denmark: Least Concern (Den Danske Rødliste 2010).
  • Netherlands: Least Concern (C. Kik pers. comm. 2010).
  • Germany: possibly threatened but no regional data on occurrences (R. Vögel pers. comm. 2010).

It is recommended that the monitoring and management of this species is incorporated into the existing management plans of the protected areas in which it occurs.

EURISCO reports 52 germplasm accessions of M. sylvestris held in European genebanks, only one of which is reported to be of wild or weedy origin and does not originate from within Europe (EURISCO Catalogue 2010). Germplasm collection and duplicated ex situ storage is a priority for this species.

Research is needed to determine the effect of hybridization with M. domestica on the genetic diversity of M. sylvestris.

Citation: Kik, C., Korpelainen, H., Vögel, R., Asdal, Å., Eliáš, P., Draper, D. & Magos Brehm, J. 2011. Malus sylvestris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T172170A6841688. . Downloaded on 25 September 2018.
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