Small tree to 10m. Branchlets dark red when young, ageing purplish brown, pubescent at first, robust. Buds purplish brown, ovoid; scales pubescent at margin. Leaf blade ovate to elliptic, 6–15 × 3.5–7.5 cm, unlobed, both surfaces finely hairy at first, hairs sometimes retained beneath; base rounded, apex acuminate, margin finely toothed; petiole 1.5–3 cm. Inflorescence a 5–12 flowered corymb, 5–9 cm across. Pedicels 1.5–3 cm, sparsely hairy at first. Flowers 1.5–2 cm in diameter, in spring (June in the wild). Sepals triangular-ovate, 4–5 mm, persistent, tomentose above; petals white, suborbicular, about 1 cm; stamens 20, unequal, slightly shorter than petals; styles 5, a little shorter than the stamens. Fruit red or yellow, dotted white, ovoid or subglobose, the flesh gritty with stone cells, August in the wild. (Gu et al. 2003; Cullen et al. 2011; Bean 1981).
Distribution China W Sichuan, NW Yunnan.
Habitat Mixed forests on slopes, 1400–3500 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 6-9
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Data deficient (DD)
Malus prattii is one of the small-fruited Chinese species akin to M. yunnanensis, potentially handsome in fruit and often giving good orange-red autumn colour (Bean 1981; Edwards & Marshall 2019). Studies support a very close relationship between these two species on both morphological (Qian et al. 2006) and molecular (Li et al. 2012; Nikiforova et al. 2013) grounds. The leaves, sometimes quite large, recall Davidia or some Tilia in shape and texture. Rather light green, they are unlobed, and less hairy than those of M. yunnanensis. It has a narrower range in western China.
Hemsley’s specific epithet of 1895 honours the widely-travelled English collector of mostly animal specimens, Antwerp Pratt, from whose herbarium specimens collected in western Sichuan (A.E. Pratt 93 & 824) the species was described. It was introduced to cultivation through several collections by Ernest Wilson, all from Sichuan. The first (Wilson for Veitch 3498) was from a red-fruited tree; W 1107 and W 1252, both yellow-fruited, followed in 1908 (Sargent 1916). More recent collections include SICH 778 (Sichuan, 1991, red fruit), and SICH 319. The variation within this group of species is not fully understood. Inevitably some more dubious collections are labelled ‘aff. prattii’, and species attributions are sometimes re-evaluated. For example B&L 12303 (Yunnan, 1987, yellow fruit), originally identified as M. prattii is now considered to be M. yunnanensis by Hugh McAllister (pers. comm. 2020).
Pratt’s Crab is well established in specialist collections in the UK and is occasionally available from nurseries. Very old specimens, probably derived from Wilson collections, are found at the Cyril Hart Arboretum, Gloucestershire (a 12 m bush in 2015) and Borde Hill, Sussex (11 m × 155 cm in 2010, but decrepit by 2015 – The Tree Register 2020). RBG Edinburgh has a shapely specimen with acute branches repropagated from yellow-fruited W 1252 (5 m × 68 cm in 2015 – The Tree Register 2020) as well as a red-fruited example from SICH 778 (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 2020). Specimens from BRLL 12303 can be seen at Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 2020), and the Yorkshire Arboretum (7 m × 64 cm, 2009 – The Tree Register 2020). An example from SICH 319 grows at Howick Hall, Northumberland, under conditions akin to moist, open woodland (8 m × 72 cm, 2019 – The Tree Register 2020),
Malus prattii would be expected to be quite widely hardy in continental Europe. There are specimens at Gothenburg Botanic Garden, Sweden (1983 accession, wild provenance) and the Arboretum Wespelaar, Belgium (Gothenburg Botanical Garden 2020, Arboretum Wespelaar 2020).
This is an extremely rare tree in North America (Jacobson 1996). Despite Wilson’s collections and subsequent accessions, there appears to be no living example in the Arnold Arboretum’s excellent collection of crabapple species (Arnold Arboretum 2020). A specimen of garden origin is recorded at the Morton Arboretum, IL (Morton Arboretum 2020). In the Pacific Northwest it is grown in Washington Park, Seattle, and there are young trees with sharply ascending branches from BHMWZ 022 in the David C. Lam Asian Garden, Vancouver (University of Washington Botanic Gardens 2020, University of British Columbia 2020).