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Lost apple trees/varieties? — The Grow Network Community
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Lost apple trees/varieties?

Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

To anyone living in the Idaho/Washington/Oregon/Utah and possibly Montana area: Do you know of any orchards, presently claimed or abandoned, that have old, old apple trees of unknown variety possibly growing in them? I'm a volunteer with the Lost Apple Project, Idaho division, and we're scouting the state and some surrounding areas for antique trees that may be of historic value. We're looking for "lost" varieties of apple trees that were once part of old homesteads or even old commercial orchards, but that were left behind with history and dwindled in numbers until they were believed extinct. We've already found several, but there are more still out there! Some of them continue to exist in the form of a single tree or maybe two, and can be saved through proper identification and taking of scion wood for propagation. If you know of a gnarly old apple tree that nobody seems to be able to identify in terms of variety, or if you know of an area where some ancient, untended and unclaimed apple trees may still be standing and waiting for some love and recognition to return, please let me know! Our team my be able to visit, take a look, and find out if the trees are apple varieties bred and raised by our ancestors, left to fate and now waiting to be saved from extinction. Also, if you're interesting in planting a "lost' variety of apple in your yard, please let me know because we may also have some grafted saplings for sale from time to time. Thanks!



  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,080 admin
    edited November 2020

    @Suburban Pioneer If only I lived down your way. My aunt has a spectacular tree that she does not know what it is. The apples are large & juicy, hard & crisp and the peel is fine to leave on even in baking. It is like store bought...but way better!

    I need to figure out how to get this apple growing here in case hers dies...as they all do. It is our favorite of the large apples.

    Could you teach those of us who don't live in those areas how to save our special trees? Is it just a matter of grafting? Is that enough to do so?

  • AcequiamadreAcequiamadre Posts: 272 ✭✭✭

    I love the idea of this project. We have so many unique varieties in New Mexico. Thank you for volunteering!

  • I recently moved from Council, Idaho, and there are old apple trees along the Weiser River Trail that I know people gather apples from.

    So far as I know, the orchards around Mesa were a big thing back in the day. (https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=23222)

    I wonder if some of the older trees along the trail come from that same stock?

    Just north of Council, right along the trail, up around Fruitvale, I've heard, but cannot confirm, that the black bears enjoy apples in the fall!

  • TaveTave Moderator In the AndesPosts: 673 admin

    My cousin has a few of my grandfather's apple trees. My dad used to take care of them but, since he passed, they've been neglected and almost died out. My cousin's daughter-in-law is trying to save them and replant the orchard. Grafting is the best way to do it. Apple trees need regular care, or they don't survive well.

    I'm glad people are working to preserve the heirloom varieties. They have so much flavor.

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Mary, thank you! I don't know if other members of the team have been to the actual trail, yet, although a couple have been checking around the old orchard area. Do you have any more specific distances, coordinates or markers? And are the trees literally "within arm's reach' of the trail, or maybe a short walk off the actual trail? I haven't ever been on that trail, so I can't picture the specific terrain and scenario. I'm going to inquire if the other team members who were poking around in the environs of the old orchard looked specifically along the trail. If not, that sounds like a great day hike project after the trees have started identifying themselves by flowering in the spring! Thank you for the lead!

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Hurrah for your cousin's daughter-in-law!! So glad to hear of more people who believe that saving our culinary and botannical history is important. Do you happen to know what varieties the trees are? Are any of them 'unknowns'?

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    My pleasure! I have a special fondness for the orphans and the neglected of the natural world, and with so much of our history, genomes and flavor disappearing, this is really an important effort, I think. Especially considering the special place the apple has in our national history and culture.

    Are you aware of any trees in your area that are old and unidentified? If so, may want to take a look at the Lost Apple Project Facebook page, and reach out to the home group in Washington State to find out about starting a chapter near you. The Project as a whole operates under the auspices of the Whitman County Historical Society in Washington State, though chapters are somewhat independent. Just google Lost Apple Project, and you'll see several means of learning more about it and how to get in touch. David Benscoter in Washington State is the "Chief Organizer, Big Cheese and Apple Sleuth". Former NYPD detective turned historical fruit hunter. Great guy!

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Hi, Laurie

    Bless you!!!! Yes, grafting is a very necessary step to saving the tree, as well as identification and a means to create and distribute multiple grafts so you don't keep all of your apples in one basket. What sort of detailed information do you have on your aunt's tree? Estimated age? Height? Family lore about it? Any special characteristics? What are its best uses (cider, pie, frying, fresh eating, long storage, etc.)? Was it a lone tree, or part of a larger effort such as a home or commercial orchard? Do you have any photos of the tree in the different seasons? Do you have any good photos of the ripe apples themselves? Do you know pretty precisely when the apples ripen (like within a week or two of when they can normally start to be harvested)? Would you send that info to me so I can share it with the group? LAP generally starts the identification process by gathering as much overall data about the tree and its fruit as possible, including the "context" of the planting (if that can be ascertained). If photos of the tree and/or fruit are available, that helps a lot. If someone on the team can't positively identify an apple from indirect data, then a team members gathers at least six samples of the ripe fruit (you could ship it to me if we get to that point and you want to), and precise geolocation data of of the tree. We then send the fruit to one of several apple ID experts, such as the apple specialist at the Temperate Fruit Orchard Conservatory. They look at at least twelve different characteristics of the apples, and if they can't positively identify it as a variety known to be currently living, they try to match it to a variety thought to be extinct. If they think they have a match, they do a genetic test to make sure. If they can't find any historical reference to the fruit, and the genetic tests show that the apple matches no known living or suspected extinct apple, then - wowza - we REALLY have something! I don't think we've found anything THAT unknown, yet, but LAP HAS found at least 8 or 10 varieties, now, that were presumed extinct. :-) Maybe your aunt has one, as well? Should we find out??? Do you have any orchardists on your area who teach grafting, or who would be willing to do bench grafts for you? If not, you might check out the custom bench grafting option at Greenmantle Nursery: http://www.greenmantlenursery.com/fruit/benchgraft.htm LAPI will be doing some grafting this coming spring, but most of us are novices at it. We're hoping to get better and be able to make grafted trees available to the public on a small scale. If you turn out to have a lost tree, I could inquire next year whether the team would be willing to do a couple of custom grafts for you (and a few for ourselves!) Would that be something you might be interested in?

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,080 admin

    @Suburban Pioneer That all sounds great...but I am in Canada & that might throw a wrench into things.

    I was thinking more, and only about 15 minutes away lives a guy who was working on resurrecting his grandfather's orchard. It is fairly large (in my opinion) and he told us that he doesn't know most of the types, but believes many are rare varieties. Most of the trees are very old.

    Unfortunately, many have developed an apple maggot problem since they were neglected so long. It is an unfortunate problem with apples, & I've heard, hawthorns, in Manitoba.

  • SharieSharie Posts: 216 ✭✭✭

    That's amazing! I didn't know such an organization existed. Until I was 11 I lived across the road from an old abandoned orchard with all different varieties of apples. I remember one particular yummy type with red veins in them. Never saw them again. That was in Ontario, Canada so if there's someone there that wants to go look for it, I'd be happy to describe where to look if it's still there.

    In BC, I lucked out in finding an old golf course with some really yummy massive apples

  • I wish I could give better information. I never got to hike the trail as much as I'd have liked. I do know that if you access the trail in Council, where it crosses Bleeker Ave (just past the school), on the south side, there are a few apple trees right off the trail, and before you get to the bridge. (There's a parking area just a block to the north, visible from this corner. Take Railroad street from Bleeker, and it's just around the corner!)

    Then, as you leave Council, on past Airport Road and Orchard Road, there are trees as you go north. As you get close to Fruitvale and Starkey Hot Springs, there are trees along the road (off of 95), and people say they can be picked there, too.

  • Just off the trail at the corner of Bleeker Ave. in Council. On the property north of that intersection, but other trees to the south are on the trail.

  • toreytorey Moderator Posts: 3,072 admin

    This is a link to an apple orchard company on Salt Spring Island, BC. They have over 365 varieties of apples and might be a resource to help identify heritage apple varieties. There is a bit of history on this first page. They are also a nursery that sells bare rooted stock to the rest of Canada. Just click on Orchard & Nursery in the top tab bar.

    The annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival is in October every year and they boast of having over 500 varieties of apples at the festival.

  • monica197monica197 Posts: 874 ✭✭✭✭

    What a fantastic project and Just love how many leads you now have - I am so excited for you!

  • TaveTave Moderator In the AndesPosts: 673 admin

    I just heard back. They are red Jonathan and Wolf River (tart, but makes great applesauce).

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Oooh! Not lost, but both excellent, I hear, with the Wolf River being especially good for apple pie, I understand. Thank you for checking!!

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Thank you for sharing this! I know of Salt Spring Seeds, and have obtained some good see from them, but I had no idea that Salt Spring had an apple orchard, too. I'm going to forward this on to the rest of the team and find out if anybody else has heard of the or has ever checked them out for their heritage apples. This raises a good question for me - are any of America's lost apples possibly growing in Canada? People did move all over, and it might be possible that some varieties started in Canada and migrated south, faded out here but are still surviving up north. WHat an interesting possibility! Ill ask the others of anybody in the Project has investigated or even heard of such a possibility. Thanks for opening up a new frontier for us to investigate!

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Thank you, Mary!! I just sent this info off to the team and will see what they have to say. One or two of the people go up to the Council area a lot, but I've never heard them specifically mention these areas for checking out. I'll let you know what they have to say. The photo looks to be of a youngish tree, but I would say that every target needs to be checked out in person. I really appreciate your help!! :-)

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Sharie, let me know if you find someone willing to investigate. I'll ask the team if we could incorporate those apples into our search and fund the process to get them ID'd. If anyone volunteers, I can tell you our protocol for collecting samples. It's not difficult, but having a standardized procedure really helps the process move smoothly and makes positive identification and rescue of scion wood much easier. I would be THRILLED to help you find that apple again, and bring it back to life!

    Do you still have access to the yummy old apple on the gold course?

  • SharieSharie Posts: 216 ✭✭✭

    I live in Ecuador now so no access. Lillooet Sheep Pasture Golf Course is the location in BC. I particularly remember a very large green apple. I'd love to see the one in Ontario come back to life. Location is across from an old trailer park in Inverhuron (hope it's on the map lol). I was there about 15 years ago on a very short trip so didn't have time to look if it was still there. Everything looked rather old and abandoned so it might be. How old do apple trees live?

  • TaveTave Moderator In the AndesPosts: 673 admin

    @Sharie The two trees that are left in our old orchard are at least 60 years old.

  • toreytorey Moderator Posts: 3,072 admin

    @Sharie My husband has golfed at the Sheep Pasture! I will encourage a trip there this coming summer and maybe I can find the apples you mention. Is there a particular location on the Sheep Pasture the apple trees can be found?

  • SharieSharie Posts: 216 ✭✭✭

    There's plenty of apple trees from what I remember. The owners would likely be happy to help. They let me pick apples for no charge when I was running a harvest box program. It's such a beautiful place and such an amazing drive to get there!

  • Monek MarieMonek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,225 admin

    Great project and so worthwhile!

    Our property had an entire hillside planted with heirloom apple trees. Amazing varieties that were rare and wonderful. Unfortunately my brother did not appreciate nature and sold it too someone who cut them all down

    How they got there was, this area ther hills were stripped and the logs were thrown in the creek to float 100 miles to a city to be processed in the larger logging towns 100 years ago. Who ever bought the stripped land planted ther entire hillside in magnificient apple trees. There threes were used for cider and sold for many years. Later the neighbors still harvested apples and the deer benefited too.

    The hillside made me appreciate heirloom apple varieties. I love to hear stories of people working with them and saving them.

    There are still heirlooms on the property left and I work with those. I am zone 5B and on the east coast so cannot help but thank you for preserving heirloom apples!!~

  • Monek MarieMonek Marie Moderator Posts: 2,225 admin

    It's so much fun too, tracking down a variety and identifying it, Good luck

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Apple trees can get to be a couple of hundred years old, so the ones you remember might still be around, even if the area is abandoned.

    Torey, if your husband is willing to golf for the cause, I can give you some guidelines if you can find any trees of which the variety is unknown. Maybe he can help find botanical history just waiting to be re-discovered :-)

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭

    Looks like I might be taking a trip to look at these trees in the fall. Would you be available to let me know when they've got fruit that's starting to ripen? Maybe we could even meet there and take a hike together to examine the trees?

  • toreytorey Moderator Posts: 3,072 admin

    @Suburban Pioneer Yes, I would like to have some instruction on what to do about identification. I know of some older trees in our area that are at old homestead sites. Some have gone pretty wild and bushy but still produce fruit.

  • @Suburban Pioneer I wish I could meet you in Council, but I have moved to southern Missouri to be near my 81 year old mother. I do have some friends that might be able to help. Let's keep in touch, and I will try to get a connection there for you.

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 246 ✭✭✭


    Sounds good! And, thank you so much! Yes, it would be helpful to have a local contact sine I'm not very familiar with the area. Sounds like there may be a lot of trees to be scouted, so getting there at the optimal time and having a second set of eyes would increase the chances of making a discovery if there's a discovery there to be made. So good of you to be with your mom, especially with so many issues going on. Wishing you both well.

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