Apple Trees

Heirloom Apple Tree Collection

 

This collection was organized and established by Alfred Johnson, former director of the Arboretum, and was established in 1994. It consists of two distinct collections: Central Asian wild ancestral varieties and Old Maine varieties.  Maine has a long history with the apple tree dating back to early colonial times when a fruit was needed to store well in the root cellar, be hardy in our cold climate and be resistant to insect pests.  Every variety here has a fascinating story behind the person who developed the variety and the specific traits exhibited by the variety. Over twenty-six varieties originating in Maine are on display here. New varieties are added on a regular basis and metal tags identify each variety.

 

(The Wealthy Cultivator, grown from seed originating in Bangor, Maine in 1868. Photo by Abby Hodgkins)

 

The Central Asian collection was established through collaboration with the Cornell University Plant Genetics Research Unit and the Arnold Arboretum.  The ancestral species from which our cultivated apple came from grew as a native tree in what are now the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan (Lamboy et al. 1998). It also extends into China where pure stands of the species occur in the Ili River Valley in the western part of the Tianshan Mts. and on hillsides in western Junggar (National Environment Protection Bureau 1987, Li-kuo and Jian-ming 1992). The specimens you see are mostly Malus sieversii, Malus kirghisorum and Malus yunanensis.  Malus sieversii is believed to be the primary ancestor of the domesticated apple.

 

(Black Oxford)

 

The apple is in the rose family (Rosaceae). It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of the genus Malus that are used by humans. There are well over 7,500 known varieties. Crabapples are also within this family.

Virtually every part of the apple tree has a function, thus making it one of the most versatile and useful trees known. The fruits yield cider, vinegar, apple pie, dried apples, apple jelly, apple jack and dozens of other products.  The flowers provide abundant nectar for honey bees in making prized and light colored apple blossom honey and they are frequently used in flower arrangements. The wood of the apple tree is prized for the flavor it imparts in smoking meats and it is used for carving and specialty wood uses such as inlay.

(John Chapman, descendant of the infamous Johnny Appleseed visits the Arboretum with a gift of an apple tree from one of the original Ohio plantations created by Johnny Appleseed more than two hundred years ago. Pictured here with Katherine Clay of Cape Elizabeth in 2012.)

Interesting Apple Facts:


The crabapple is the only apple native to North America.


A medium apple is about 80 calories.

Apples are a great source of the fiber pectin. One apple has five grams of fiber.

The pilgrims planted the first United States apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The science of apple growing is called pomology.

Apple trees take four to five years to produce their first fruit.

Apples are propagated by two methods: grafting or budding.

Apples were the favorite fruit of ancient Greeks and Romans.

Charred apples have been found in prehistoric dwellings in Switzerland.

It takes the energy from 50 leaves to produce one apple.

In colonial time, apples were called winter banana or melt-in-the-mouth.

Apples have five seed pockets or carpels. Each pocket contains seeds. The number of seeds per carpel is determined by the vigor and health of the plant. Different varieties of apples will have different number of seeds.

Newton Pippin apples were the first apples exported from America in 1768, some were sent to Benjamin Franklin in London.

America's longest-lived apple tree was reportedly planted in 1647 by Peter Stuyvesant in his Manhattan orchard and was still bearing fruit when a derailed train struck it in 1866.

Archeologists have found evidence that humans have been enjoying apples since at least 6500 B.C.
It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.

The old saying, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away,” comes from an old English adage: “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg his bread.”

Don't peel your apple. Two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants are found in the peel. Antioxidants help to reduce damage to cells, which can trigger some diseases.

The apple variety ‘Red Delicious' is the most widely grown in the United States with 62 million bushels harvested in 2005.