Malus × purpurea (Barbier) Rehd.

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Julian Sutton (species), Nick Dunn (cultivars) (2021)

Recommended citation
Sutton, J. & Dunn, N. (2021), 'Malus × purpurea' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-04-21.



  • Malus floribunda purpurea Barbier
  • Pyrus purpurea Hort.


Immature shoot protected by scales that develops into leaves and/or flowers.
(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
Organism arising via vegetative or asexual reproduction.
globularSpherical or globe-shaped.
Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).


Julian Sutton (species), Nick Dunn (cultivars) (2021)

Recommended citation
Sutton, J. & Dunn, N. (2021), 'Malus × purpurea' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-04-21.

USDA Hardiness Zone 5-8

RHS Hardiness Rating H6

This name covers hybrids between M. sieversii f. niedzwetzkyana and M. × atrosanguinea; the latter is itself a hybrid of uncertain parentage. Several clones have been placed here; they have in common red-purple flowers, purple-tinted foliage and young stems, and dark purple fruits.

The type clone was raised around 1900 by the Barbier nursery, Orleans, France; it is rarely seen nowadays, on either side of the Atlantic. Bean (1981) described it as follows: ‘In habit it is more erect and open than M. floribunda and does not develop the same dense thicket of branches. The leaves are larger, sometimes slightly lobed, of a purplish red that is especially pleasing in the delicately tinted early stage. In the bud state the flowers are of a delightful ruby red, becoming paler and more purple on opening fully […] the petals broader and more cupped than in M. floribunda; the stamens, calyx, and flower-stalk are also richly coloured. The flowers are in clusters of six or seven and expand in April. Fruits globose, about the size and shape of large cherries, pendulous on stalks about 1 in. [2.5 cm] long, dark vinous red, the calyx adhering at the end.’ Later clones, especially ‘Aldenhamensis’ and ‘Lemoinei’ are much more commonly seen.

It is most significant in the history of ornamental crab breeding. Fiala (1994) goes as far as saying that almost all modern red-flowering crabapples can be traced back to M. × purpurea. The following three cultivars belong here; ‘Neville Copeman’ (see ‘Cultivars N-Q’) is also sometimes listed here, but its origin is less certain.


An important cultivar historically, still available commercially. At its best the flower display is glorious, but its disease susceptibility disappoints from midsummer onwards.

Growth Rate/Size: Medium (<6 m)
Form/shape/habit: Rounded to open
Foliage: Burgundy at first, fading to dark green
Flower colour: Vinous red
Flower size: Small (<3 cm across)
Flower form: Semi double
Flower season: Late
Fruit size: Small (<2 cm)
Fruit shape: Round
Fruit colour: Reddish-purple
Fruit season: Mid
Disease resistance/susceptibility: High susceptibility
Raiser/collector: The Hon. Vicary Gibbs, Aldenham House, Hertfordshire, UK
Date of introduction: 1920

(Description duplicated under Malus Cultivars A-B ‘Aldenhamensis’)


One of the better red-blooming crab apples for its superb quality flowers that hold their colour well at maturity, and for its healthy, lush foliage. The fruits are insignificant. It has given way commercially to more modern selections, but holds its own among similar types and is worth seeking out.

Growth Rate/Size: Medium (<6 m)
Form/shape/habit: Upright, spreading
Foliage: Large, purple turning green.
Flower colour: Deep wine-red
Flower size: Medium (<4 cm)
Flower form: Single
Flower season: Early
Fruit size: Small (<2 cm)
Fruit shape: Round
Fruit colour: Dark red ageing bronze
Fruit season: Mid
Disease resistance/susceptibility: Low susceptibility
Raiser/collector: Victor Lemoine et Fils, Nancy, France
Date of introduction: 1922

(Description duplicated under Malus Cultivars L-M ‘Lemoinei’)