Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me…

When we last left Arizona and headed east to Arkansas, I began thinking of all the wildflower possibilities in the Ozarks resplendent with river valleys and forests. Then I discovered that the state flower is not a wildflower at all but a simple apple blossom! It was adopted in 1901 at the height of the apple craze and despite the drop off in the apple market for our fourth alphabetical state, the apple blossom and its festivals and legends remain at the center of folklore throughout Arkansas.

Everyone has an apple story or remembrance from childhood and mine centers around the sumptuous apple pie that my mother made.

The best!!

Never once did I think about the blossom that lead to that crispy crust and tart-sweet combination of apples and sugar. But it starts with a handsome flower which is a varied combination of pink and white and, when you look closely, it is a beautiful presentation.

The start of the apple pie!

The cultivated apple tree was brought to Arkansas by 19th century immigrants from Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. The story of Johnny Appleseed is a classic example of folklore surrounding the apple. However, did the apple tree as we now grow it come from wilder ancesters? The answer is yes. The wild crabapple varieties in Europe and Asia led to many of our modern cultivars and centuries of hybridization and horticulture created the hundreds of cultivatable apple trees we now have at our gardening pleasure. There is a native crabapple which grows throughout eastern North America and its tangled wild groves can be an interesting find. Among the thorns and twisted branches, there is a beautiful wildflower deserving consideration although often ignored by wildflower enthusiasts. There are twenty-five native varieties of crabapple and in southeastern wilds we have the native Southern Crabapple Tree (Malus augustifolia). It is seldom available in nurseries and is found in moist, acidic soil from the Carolinas to Florida.

The native Southern Crabapple.

The fruit of the Southern Crabapple is sour and inedible except when combined in sugar to make jellies which it excels due to the high pectin content. Deer, birds, and ‘possums enjoy the tart taste and it is a major part of Fall wildlife diets.

Delicious but not to us.

I for one don’t think of tree blossoms as wildflowers but they deserve consideration and perhaps a future wildflower article will expand on that interesting topic. Now it is time to head west to our number five alphabetical state – California. Does it have a state flower? Absolutely!

One last look at the state flower of Arkansas.

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