• February 1, 2023 at 6:07 pm #17145
    Todd Parlo

    This genus encompasses our beloved apple. What particular species reside in this wonderful barrel of genetics? To what lineage does our modern dessert apple belong? Which are native to North America. Let’s share our experiences with the various species.

    February 4, 2023 at 1:51 pm #17172
    Pear Girl

    I understand that having a good match between a plant species and its environment is important. When I get seeds and plants I try and find a source that is similar to us climate-wise. Which apples evolved in the US? I am looking for varieties that may have actually grown here for centuries in the hopes that they may be tougher or easier to grow?

    February 4, 2023 at 7:22 pm #17175
    Todd Parlo

    Let’s break this into two components. First, the idea of the origin of a species, and then deal with apples specifically:

    The origin of a plant/seed (or its static long term existence) is called provenance. It is good intuition to make selections based on similar climates, zones, etc. I will save details for another thread, but this consideration helps us choose a species with nuanced genetics that may likely fit our growing spot well.

    As for apples, we should first understand that there are no “apples” native to North America. What I mean by that is there is no evidence of a native species that has the same characteristics of what we culturally consider an apple of commerce. Those nice big sweet and crispy treats are a product of Eurasia (I will avoid being specific here for brevity sake). What we do have are crabapple species, of which there are 4 (of a bit under 50 worldwide). Malus fusca (the oregon/pacific crab), m. coronoria (american, sweet crab), m. angustifolia (southern crab) and m. ioensis (prairie, iowa crab). So in the purest sense, native means it will be a crabapple.

    However, we can discuss naturalized species. This’ll be defined as a plant that is well established within the greater landscape, (whether or not it bodes well for the local ecosystem). Dandelion and Norway Maple are examples. Given enough time, and non-cloning reproduction (ie seed) a species may be reliably fitted to a particular environment. For instance, a European fruit species regardless of origin, hardiness, disease resistance may produce a pool of progeny with greater fitness for the new locale. This takes time, the wide gamut of climatic conditions, exposure to pathogens, etc. to produce a reliable line. A specimen too may be a reliable, even as a source of cloning material (cuttings, scionwood) IF the plant lived long enough to have experienced repeated exposures just mentioned. A 150 year old cider apple tree or better still a particular bristlecone pine tree will fit the bill. A 300 year old forest of nonnative bush fruits would likely supply hardy seed for a similar climate or conditions.

    These considerations are especially important when sourcing seedlings. The same species from variable areas, native or not, may not perform equally well in your yard. For instance, Juneberry species, native to 49 states (sorry hawaii) is better sourced from a humid, cold climate if you are planting in one.

    For the most part clonal stock is different. The genetics are (mostly) fixed in that plant and resulting grafts or cuttings. So, the Alexander apple tree appearing in the Ukraine in 1700 will be reliably similar to the one in your garden today with regard to environmental factors, provided the climate, diseases and pests are similar to the origin.

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