River Crab Apple, Malus fusca, Pyrus rivularis

I was intrigued after reading the annual reports from the Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations in the early 1900s about the referenced native wild Alaska crabapple, Pyrus rivularis (Malus fusca). Although it is not a berry in the strict sense of the word, it is a fruiting plant native to Alaska, which I think warrants mention on this blog. I had not heard of this plant previously so I did some searching on the internet. The accepted name of the river crab apple (or Oregon crab apple) now appears to be Malus fusca.

According to Silva of North America, this tree grows south of the Aleutian Islands and along the coast of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. The small fruits are yellow to red in color and were historically used by native Americans.

A more elegant description of the tree is in North American Sylva, where the fruit is described as “small and purple, scarcely the size of a cherry, of an agreeable flavor.”

According to Food Plants of the North American Indians, the fruits were “eaten raw or boiled, or put away in oil for winter use.”

I wonder how the plant is currently being used in Alaska after a seemingly bright future as a potentially hybrid parent line or rootstock?

Learn more about the plant in the USDA PLANTS database

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