The Lovely Crabapple
Like their more famous relative, the Domestic Apple (Malus domestica), which is a descendant of a wild apple (Malus sieversii) native to Central Asia, crabapples provide beautiful (and often fragrant) white or pink blossoms and edible fruit that are popular with both humans and many species of wildlife.
Crabapples with smaller fruit attract the widest variety of wildlife, including songbirds such as cedar waxwings, game birds such as wild turkey, whitetail deer, squirrels, and many other species. Some species of crabapple have fruit that persists well into winter, providing an important food source for birds and other overwintering wildlife.
Most crabapple species are too tart to be eaten fresh by humans, but they are a popular addition to many types of canned goods and preserves (especially jelly, as they are naturally high in pectin), as well as homemade wine, liqueur, hard cider, and other alcoholic drinks.
If you plan to feed either yourself or the local wildlife with your crabapple trees, be careful not to buy a barren cultivar, as some modern cultivars have been bred to produce no fruit.
Native crabapple species include Southern crabapple (Malus angustifolia), Sweet crabapple (Malus coronaria), Oregon crabapple (Malus fusca), Prairie crabapple (Malus ioensis), and their hybrids and cultivars. A number of non-native crabapple species and cultivars also do well in North America, as does the domestic apple, which is a popular treat for many wildlife species, including deer.