Herb: Chinese Crab

Latin name: Malus baccata

Synonyms: Malus rockii, Pyrus baccata

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Chinese Crab:

A paste of the fruit is applied to the forehead to relieve headaches.

Description of the plant:


15 m
(49 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Open forested areas to elevations of 1800 - 3600 metres.

Edible parts of Chinese Crab:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Fruit from the typical species is about 1cm in diameter, though there are sub-species and cultivated forms with considerably larger fruits. A sour taste, but the fruit is palatable. It is often dried for winter use and also makes an excellent jelly.

Other uses of the herb:

The plant can be used as a rootstock for apple cultivars. It produces a vigorous tree that has more cold tolerance and disease resistance. It is commonly used as stock to graft Malus pumila and M. asiatica in N and NE China. The sub-species M. baccata himalaica is more often used for this purpose.

Propagation of Chinese Crab:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It usually germinates in late winter. Stored seed requires stratification for 3 months at 1C and should be sown in a cold frame as soon as it is received. It might not germinate for 12 months or more. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. If given a rich compost they usually grow away quickly and can be large enough to plant out in late summer, though consider giving them some protection from the cold in their first winter. Otherwise, keep them in pots in a cold frame and plant them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of mature wood, November in a frame.

Cultivation of the herb:

Open forested areas to elevations of 1800 - 3600 metres.

Known hazards of Malus baccata:

All members of this genus contain the toxin hydrogen cyanide in their seeds and possibly also in their leaves, but not in their fruits. Hydrogen cyanide is the substance that gives almonds their characteristic taste but it should only be consumed in very small quantities. Apple seeds do not normally contain very high quantities of hydrogen cyanide but, even so, should not be consumed in very large quantities. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.