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What are the Characteristics of the Common Apple Tree?

A collage of apple tree, its bark, and its flowers.

Malus Domestica

The common apple tree i the most cultivated tree on the entire planet, and the apple tree is the most widely grown species in the entire genus malus. These deciduous trees are short but very important to farmers and small-scale apple growers alike.

The apple trees that we know today all originated from one single ancestor tree that was found growing in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Malus sieversii. This single apple tree ancestor is responsible for the domestication of apple trees which is said to have begun over 10,000 years ago. Today, there are over 7,500 different cultivars of apple trees.

The apple tree represents many things spiritually and is really the first thing we think of when we say the word “fruit”. They are one of the most popularly grown fruits in the world, and in 2018 over 86 a million tonnes of apples were grown and sold. Over half of those apples came from orchards in China.

If you’re curious about different types of trees, look no further! We’ve compiled a crazy huge and interesting list of 101 Types of Trees from all around the world. We’ve got other fruit trees, flowering trees, coniferous trees, and trees you’ve never even heard of!

What do Apple Trees Look Like?

This is a close look at a common apple tree.

Root System

Apple trees are slightly differently spoken about than trees that grow in the wild. This is because the way that apple trees grow is not entirely up to them. When growing in the wild, an apple tree will initially develop a deep taproot. From these taproots, widely spreading lateral roots will eventually develop.

When growing apple trees in a nursery, the way their root system develops is controlled. They will commonly cut the taproot to immediately encourage the growth of the lateral roots. This encourages quicker height growth in the tree.


Apple trees are rather small tree species, and when they grow in the wild they will sometimes reach heights of 9 meters or more. When they are grown in an apple orchard, trees will only reach heights between 2 and 5 meters — this makes for far easier apple harvesting when trees are shorter.

Growth Pattern

This is a close look at an apple tree with a basket of harvested apples.

Again, the growth pattern of an apple tree grown in an orchard will depend on the preference of the growth. Branch density and growth pattern is determined by both trimming and pruning, and by the dwarfing rootstock selection as well.


This is a close look at the bark of a common apple tree.

Apple trees have light gray bark that peels away in scales, with deep and dark fissures.


This is a close look at the leaves and foliage of a common apple tree.

Apple tree leaves are alternately arranged on a twig. A leaf is a dark green color with a downy underside. Leaves have serrated margins and are a simple oval shape.

How do Apple Trees Reproduce?


This is a close look at the clusters of flowers of a common apple tree.

Apple tree flowers are small with 5 petals. Petals are a very light pink/white color, and flowers grow in inflorescences with a cyme of 4-6 flowers per cluster. A flower will blossom in spring, at the same time that new leaf buds emerge.

Apple trees are not self-compatible, and so they must be cross-pollinated in order to develop fruit. Trees can be pollinated by any type of pollinator, though people growing apples will sometimes bring honey bees, orchard mason bees, or bumblebees to their orchards to encourage pollination.


This is a close look at a bunch of red apples freshly harvested.

There is truly no need to describe the fruit that comes from the apple tree, as it is one of the most recognized images on the planet! But we will, just because we can. Apples are fruit containing multiple seeds that are enrobed in a yellow fleshy fruit. An apple seed is easily dispersed by a great many animals and insects that feed on these fruits.

The fruit is covered in a protective edible layer of epicuticular wax, and fruits are 2-4 inches in diameter and round. The skin can be any color from red, to yellow, to green. Sometimes the skin can be multiple colors as well.

What are Other Types of Apple Trees?

The Crabapple Tree 

This is a crabapple tree by the concrete walkway at a park.

Crabapple trees are a bushy shrub variety with low contorted branches. They have broad open crowns. This variety of apple trees prefers to grow in rich, moist soils, and they produce smaller apples that are very tart.

The Granny Smith Apple Tree 

This is a Granny Smith Apple tree with clusters of apples ready to be harvested.

This apple variety is the most heat tolerant of many apple tree varieties. They require lots of suns and moist soils, and they do require another apple tree in order to pollinate. There are both a dwarf variety and a semi-dwarf variety, reaching 2-3 meters or 3-5 meters in height.

The Red Delicious Apple Tree 

This is a red delicious apple tree with ripe apples.

There are over 2500 cultivars of red delicious varieties in North America. These trees require cross-pollination, and they prefer to grow in full sun with very moist soils. Red delicious apple trees produce very sweet apples that have bright red skin and heart-shaped fruits.

The Golden Delicious Apple Tree 

A close look at a farmer harvesting golden delicious apples.

This apple tree variety can be a dwarf tree or semi-dwarf tree, reaching heights of either 2-3 meters or 3-5 meters. These trees are both cold hardy and heat tolerant. They produce very round fruits with beautiful golden-yellow skin.

Where Do Apple Trees Grow?

This is an aerial view of rows of apple trees.

Apple trees are capable of growing all over the world, depending on the variety of apple trees. Though they originated in central Asia, they have been cultivated for thousands of years in Europe as well.

An apple tree seedling was brought to North America by English colonists, and since then these trees have been cultivated all over the planet.

Apple trees will grow in temperate areas. They cannot tolerate winters that are too cold, but they also cannot tolerate summers that are too hot.

What Are the Growing Conditions of Apple Trees?

This is a close look at rows of properly spaced apple trees with ripe fruits.


Apple trees, regardless of the variety, need to grow in soil that is moist, well-drained, and rich in nutrients. This is usually pretty easy to achieve since most apple trees are grown in orchards rather than in the wild.

It is important to ensure that the soil also has a layer of mulch over top and that the tree’s root ball is well tussled before placing it into the planting hole.

Sun Exposure

Apple trees prefer to have full sun exposure all day, though they can tolerate partial shade in hotter climates.


Apple trees like to be fully watered and to have consistently moist soil. They are not very tolerant of drought-like conditions.

What Pests Affect the Apple Tree?

A single mature apple tree on top of a hill.

Since apple trees are so often cross-pollinated or reproduced through cuttings, they are not very genetically diverse trees. This makes them more susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases and pests as well.

A young tree can be commonly destroyed by over-grazing by pests like deer, insects, and mice who enjoy gnawing on their soft bark. Otherwise, they are damaged by the codling moth, apple maggots, fireblight, and the following nuisances:

Apple Scab

Apple scab is a fungal infection that starts on apple tree leaves. Leaves will start to develop brown spots that have a very velvety texture, which will then eventually seep into the twigs and infect the fruit.

Fallen leaves and fruit will then spread into the earth and infect the soil, which will then carry on to infect the growth of the following harvest seasons.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a bacterial infection that appears as powdery patches on flowers, leaves, and twigs. This infection is most noticeable in flowers, which will turn yellow and experience stunted growth.


Aphids are just horrible pests to so many different plant and tree species. Numerous aphids affect apple trees, including; the apple grain aphid, the rosy apple aphid, the spirea aphid, and the woolly apple aphid.

Aphids have very efficient mouths that act as funnels, which will stick into plant leaves and suck out all of the plant juices, effectively removing all of that hard-earned nutrients. This is dangerous for an old apple tree.