Small tree to 6 m with widely spreading branches. Young branchlets purple. Leaves to 9 cm long, serrate, those on long shoots sometimes slightly lobed, less hairy than in M. × floribunda, very dark green. Flowers 2.5 cm diameter, pink from carmine buds. Fruit to 1.2 cm diameter, yellow-green to reddish. (Fiala 1994; Bean 1981; Jacobson 1996; van den Berk Nurseries 2020).
USDA Hardiness Zone 5-8
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Once quite well known on both sides of the Atlantic, the Carmine Crabapple rather resembles M. floribunda but has flowers of a richer rose pink which do not fade (Bean 1981); the buds are intensely colourful. The typically low, spreading crown (‘mushroom-shaped’ – Jacobson 1996) can be picturesque, especially when multistemmed (Fiala 1994). It is at best insignificant in fruit.
The origins of this old hybrid clone are much less clear than the literature might suggest, with inaccuracies and suggestions being repeated as fact. As to parentage, Bean’s (1981) statement is as close to factual as anyone gets: ‘this crab is botanically near to M. halliana which it resembles in having the leaves convolute (rolled) not folded in the bud stage and in the short calyx-lobes. It is probably a hybrid of M. halliana with M. sieboldii [M. toringo]’. Beyond this, all we can say for sure is that it was in European nurseries before 1889, when the Arnold Arboretum received it from Waterer’s nursery in Surrey (Arnold Arboretum 2020). Its claimed parentage is no more than supposition; in an early use of the name Schneider (1906) suggests M. fusca rather than M. halliana as a parent. It seems deeply unhelpful to group other clones (for example ‘Gorgeous’) of independent and similarly unproven parentage here. The often-repeated claim that it is a natural hybrid from Japan also seems speculative; it is not recognized by Japanese floras (Iketani & Ohashi 2001; Ohwi 1965) and we cannot trace reliable records.
Older specimens in Britain include a rather upright tree at RBG Edinburgh from a 1947 accession, measured at 5 m × 44 cm in 2014 (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 2020; The Tree Register 2020). In Belgium it is recorded from Meise Botanic Garden (Meise Botanic Garden 2020). It is still available in the commercial trade (van den Berk Nurseries 2020). Once common in North American plantings (Jacobson 1996), it seems largely to have been dropped by the trade, and even by specialist collections; it no longer appears in the Arnold Arboretum catalogue, for example (Arnold Arboretum 2020). Specimens are recorded in Oregon, at the Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, and in the grounds of Oregon State University, Corvallis (Hoyt Arboretum 2020, Oregon State University 2020).