A natural hybrid between the North American M. fusca and the introduced M. domestica. It forms an upright, densely twiggy tree with a rounded crown. Leaves 4–9 cm long, elliptic to oblong, unlobed; excellent autumn colour. Flowers white, 2.5–3.5 cm wide. Fruit yellowish green to red, 4 × 2.5 cm, elliptic to oblong. (Fiala 1994; Grimshaw & Bayton 2009).
Distribution Canada British Columbia (occasional) United States Oregon (common in Willamette Valley), Washington
USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
Despite praise for its autumnal colour and its attractive elongated fruits (Fiala 1994), Malus × dawsoniana is not commonly grown, and is most likely to be found in specialist collections. It was introduced to cultivation from Oregon in 1881, at the Arnold Arboretum; the specific epithet commemorates Jackson T. Dawson, a propagator at the Arnold (Jacobson 1996).
Recorded from both Kew and Wisley, an unhappy-looking specimen in the Hillier Gardens, measured at 7.8 m × 66 cm in 2017, would not encourage its wider cultivation (The Tree Register 2020; Grimshaw & Bayton 2009). A further negative feature is its exceptional susceptibility to apple proliferation disease, caused by a phytoplasma infection (Morvan & Castelain 1975). Even in North America it is rare in cultivation and generally confined to the largest crabapple collections (Arnold Arboretum 2020; Morton Arboretum 2020).