Sunday, March 29, 2020

Crabapples in Bloom

Crabapple in bloom near the trail
Although the coronavirus outbreak has forced closure of some park facilities, the trails remain open in Alexandria as of this writing, and they offer the opportunity to get outdoors while maintaining the requisite social distancing.

Walk the wetland loop at Four Mile Run Park this week and you'll notice white-pink splashes of color in the early spring woods. As the cherry blossoms fade around DC's Tidal Basin and in local neighborhoods, a similar-looking five-petal flower is starting to bloom. The crabapple (Malus spp.) is a native tree that is an important food source for wildlife. Crabapples are closely related to the familiar apple, though the fruit is much smaller, less than 2 inches in diameter, and notoriously bitter. In the city's early history, crabapples were cherished as ornamental trees, with fruit used to make cider. Non-native varieties were also brought to North America from Europe, readily hybridizing. Just what varieties are present at Four Mile Run is unknown, though upon close examination it is clear that there are quite a few different kinds, some with doubled flower petals.
Flowers resemble cherry blossoms

More than twenty crabapple trees are visible from the trail, from little shrubs to trees about fifteen feet in height. Several are thick with flowers. Most are along the paved trail between the MOM's parking lot and practice field 3. A few are close to the trail edge, though you might nonetheless want to practice crabapple social distancing on account of mud, thorns, and poison ivy.

Stay healthy, and enjoy the park trails responsibly!