|Crabapple branch and flower closeup watercolor|
Today, on Earth Day 2019, we celebrate our planet and the life of our planet. Where I live we are celebrating spring too—rebirth, the blossoming of trees, flowers, migrating of birds, insects, and the emergence of animals who hibernate or stay under cover in the cold of winter. At the same time as we celebrate, we worry about our home planet—about icecaps melting, dangerous storms, animals and insects going extinct because their climate is threatened. Earth Day reminds us to be active, to have a voice, to do everything we can to keep our planet healthy and alive. A small part of being active is for us to look around and appreciate what it is that we have.
The crabapple tree is now in full bloom in many parts of the eastern United States. It deserves our appreciation—the crabapple provides us with sensory delights—beautiful and fragrant blossoms of pink, red, and white, dark green leaves that turn to brilliant reds and purples in autumn along with little somewhat bitter fruits that feed birds and small animals. Although bitter, the small fruits are full of pectin, so some people do make jellies or thicken their jellies with them. Crabapples or Malus are in the family Rosaceae, a family that includes roses, pears, peaches, cherries, apricots, and both strawberries and raspberries. Plants in the Rosaceae family usually have five flowers with five petals and red stamens that produce pollen. Crabapples are pollinated by insects and especially by bees. In fact, a gardener in an orchard in Oregon says that he plants crabapple trees among the apple trees because the crabapples are irresistible to bees and therefore help to pollinate the other apple trees as well. The hardy crabapple is often used as rootstock for grafting other apple varieties too.
When I took a class in drawing crabapples (including the one in this blog entry) at the New York Botanical Garden, I discovered that my teacher, Robin Jess, had had crabapple blossoms as her wedding bouquet. That makes romantic sense because crabapples have long been associated with love and marriage. Apples are symbols of fruitfulness and even in some mythology serve as a means to immortality and perhaps the immortality of love. Supposedly if you throw the crabapple pips into the fire while saying the name of your love and the love is true, the pips explode. Let us appreciate the crabapple as an emblem of our appreciation of our planet and let our commitment explode in our work in keeping it healthy and alive.