In the past, M. sylvestris was thought to be an important ancestor of the cultivated apples (M. domestica), but these have now been shown to have been originally derived from the central Asian species M. sieversii. However, another recent DNA analysis showed that M. sylvestris has contributed to the ancestry of modern M. domestica very significantly.
The study found that secondary introgression from other species of the Malus genus has greatly shaped the genome of M. domestica, with M. sylvestris being the largest contributor. It also found that current populations of M. domestica are more closely related to M. sylvestris than to M. sieversii. However in more pure strains of M. domestica the M. sieversii ancestry still predominates.
^Velasco R., Zharkikh A., Affourtit J. et al., The genome of the domesticated apple (Malus × domestica Borkh.) Nature Genetics, 2010, 42, 10, 833
^Coart, E., Van Glabeke, S., De Loose, M., Larsen, A.S., Roldán-Ruiz, I. 2006. Chloroplast diversity in the genus Malus: new insights into the relationship between the European wild apple (Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill.) and the domesticated apple (Malus domestica Borkh.). Mol. Ecol.15(8): 2171-82.
M.H.A. Hoffman, List of names of woody plants, Applied Plant Research, Boskoop 2005.