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General question on growing an apple tree...
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Author:  ijmorris [ Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:26 pm ]
Post subject:  General question on growing an apple tree...

Howdy folks, just a general question: If you were to bury an apple, will a tree grow from it? Why or why not? I believe I read somewhere that an apple tree can only be grown from a graft - but that doesn't make sense to me. Why would the fruit even have seeds if they weren't for growing another tree?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond to my relatively naive question.



Author:  Viron [ Sat Nov 25, 2006 6:52 pm ]
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Ian, I'll take a stab at your question. If the apple seeds are 'cold stratified,' meaning cooled to a point as if they'd lied outside all winter, they could successfully grow a tree. If you 'planted' an entire apple, I suspect the seeds would rot before emerging..?

Yes, you can plant apples from seed; but consider what's inside each seed: the mixed genetics of each parent; and like us, each apple seed (or potential tree) would form a unique individual. Like humans, if your dad was Albert Einstein, or in the apple kingdom, a "Gravenstein" - those would be hard acts to follow, or, "improve" upon!

But unlike ‘people,’ we never let the apple "die." That said, while growing clones of the same apple for several hundred years, natural mutations occur. If the Orchardist notices one, and it seems an improvement, he may propagate it into a new tree by grafting the surrounding buds of that twig to an apple rootstock. While giving a tour of my homestead orchard I was amazed when the HOS old-timers became excited over my 80+ year old Gravenstein tree. “You’ve got the old ones” they proclaimed! What I have is a more dense and flavorful apple than those sold as Gravensteins now days. The newer ‘sports’ [Webster: a plant or animal showing some marked variation from the normal type, usually as a result of mutation] are larger, more tender, but lacking the intense flavor of the older ones. I loved having them confirm this, we actually grow both new and old, though most prefer the old timer --- which is more closely realated to apples traced back to the gardens of the Duke Augustenberg, Castle Graefenstein. Zneat!

There are two reasons apple trees are grafted; the first being, to create a new tree from a variety we like. The second, to place that variety on top of a root structure that can; 1) thrive in difficult soil conditions; 2) restrict the nutrient flow and keep the tree to a desired height {Dwarfing}. A Gravenstein apple tree on "its own" roots could easily hit 40 feet in height! But I'm not too sure how well its roots could handle wet feet, oak root rot or nematodes..?

On a long ago visit to OSU's gene respository in Corvallis, we HOS members toured a field of 'seedling apples' they were evaluating. I thought, how sad - most, if not every tree there would be pulled out after its first fruiting. The process of elimination is brutal! They'd plant apple seeds from a specific cross of promising parents, then the resulting trees were allowed to 'sprawl' with little or no care. The reason for that neglect was to 'force' them into fruiting ASAP -- so the fruit could be judged and the tree quickly replaced by another…

The number of apples from seed deemed "better than their parents" is one in ten thousand! --- mighty poor odds, and another reason such experimentations aren't well funded in the US. In fact, many of the best new apples come from Japan, they've more experiment stations than anyone, and take justifiable pride in their magnificent prodigy. We've been told of tissue culture and genetic engineering that should / could have produced some amazing fruit by now ... but I'm still looking for those seedless grapes the size of golf balls I'd read about a decade ago...

As usual :roll: the shortest questions often have the longest answers; or maybe it's my inability to contain my 'answers?' ...but I hope this has answered yours...

Author:  ijmorris [ Sun Nov 26, 2006 10:53 am ]
Post subject: 


Thanks for the informative answer. My question arises from my reading the book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" wherein it is mentioned many times that the apple wasn't used as a primary food crop because it had to be graft grown, which didn't make sense to me. I suspect it could have been used as a crop via planting seeds, but would have resulted in varieties that wouldn't have been really pleasant to eat after a number of generations.

Author:  Viron [ Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:10 pm ]
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You're welcome Ian. It's interesting how many stories there are about, John Chapman: AKA, "Johnny Appleseed." It never made sense to me why every settler couldn't haul a pocket full of seeds to their new farm and 'do the same thing?' Finally, after many fanciful stories about Johnny-A, I read one that made sense. He traveled from farm to farm planting seeds, then he'd retrace his plantings to graft on superior varieties to those seedlings. Johnny Grafter, or Johnny Orchardist may have been more accurate. For this service he was pretty well taken care of by various settlers who couldn't easily up and leave to fetch their own scions (known apple wood) for grafting. That's a very crude description of his travels, but far more reasonable to me...

Here in Oregon's Willamette Valley we've an amazing tale of the Henderson Luelling Family, they brought two wagon loads of grafted apple trees from back east. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cor/cool/luelling.html They even lost a wagon while crossing a river! But they'd been wise enough to spilt their load into equal varieties as not to totally loose any one - and they got all eight of their children here too! You can imagine what a valuable commodity they had, "real apple trees" -- and they established their nursery on the richest soil and best location, what's now Milwaukie Oregon's Waverly country club.

I don't know that apples have ever been considered "a primary food crop," they lack the starch, or carbohydrates to feed an army... They were more of a delicacy to the landed gentry of Europe, taking too long to establish otherwise...

Author:  marc557 [ Mon Nov 27, 2006 11:28 am ]
Post subject:  Apples can be grown from seeds of root shoots ...

All the apple rootstocks are grown from root shoots. These are apple varieties whose fruits have deemed not the best for eating but selected for other desirable traits as rootstocks.

The plants are mounted with sawdust and the shoots take root and then are separated to produce a new plant. Go to Midway Valley Farm along Scholls Ferry Rd and you will the process.

Apple trees can also be propagated from seeds, but genetic consistency is not guaranteed. Apple trees from seeds also take longer to come to fruition than grafted trees.

If you go to my latest newsletter in http://www.fruit-tree.com/newsletter/november2006.pdf you will find a link to the USDA expeditions to Kazakhstan to collect wild apple specimens. Apple trees do grow wild and they do propagate vegetatively as well as sexually.

Marc Camargo
fruit-tree.com nursery
Visit us at http://www.fruit-tree.com
Our motto: "Preservation by dissemination"

Author:  Ted [ Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:06 am ]
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I'll add my two cents worth. Nature has produced many more desirable apples by chance seedlings than man has by breeding. As stated most are not desirable but when cider was made by many the left overs, including the seeds, were ether feed to animals or piled near the cider press. Many seeds germinated and some were given names such as 'Smokehouse.'
The seeds themselves contain chemicals that prevent their decay, such as arsnic.
Go ahead and plant seeds, when the seedling grows a year, graft it to limb on a tree and it will fruit in a year or two. You will not have to wait 8-10 years for a seedling tree to fruit.


Author:  reisjdmd [ Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:06 am ]
Post subject:  newbie reply

hello. first, let me introduce myself. we live on a south central wisconsin hobby farm. we have a 50-60 year old apple and pear orchard and a new mixed fruit orchard. i have no expertise, but am simply interested in working these things in my upcoming semi retirement. very peaceful!
regarding planting apples from seeds, i was told by an old country apple grower that if you plant seeds you will likely get wild apples on the new tree. this thread makes that sound incorrect. any thougths?? i guess in the old country they grafted onto "wild apple" root stock, whatever a wild apple is. i always figured it might be a crab apple, but my 85 y/o dad says that if we go into the surrounding woods we would likely find a wild apple. obviously, this whole thing confuses me. :D

Author:  Applenut [ Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:53 pm ]
Post subject: 

I can answer Viron's question about Johnny Appleseed, AKA John Chapman. Jonny did no grafting, as he was a disciple of Emmanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish mystic and considered grafting an abberation against nature. Johnny had a series of nurseries up the Ohio river that sold juvinile seedling trees (and Swedenborg literature) to arriving settlers. By arriving ahead selling them trees several years old, he saved them that time of waiting for the apples to start bearing at a period that was critical to their survival. Johnny ended up owning 1500 acres of land by the time he died, and an apple seedling sprouted up by one of them that ended up being named Ralls Jenet by Thos. Jefferson, and became one of the parents of Fuji apple.

The "wild" seedling apples were used as livestock feed, cooking, and most importantly hard cider, which was drunk in great quantities by every member of the family at each meal, and was considered safer than questionable water supplies.

To answer reisjdmd's questions, the only apples native to the US are little nasty crabapples, used by the indians but deemed only fit for jelly by settlers. Seedling apples can live well over 100 years and can seed themselves, and so it is very plausable that the apple tree your dad's talking about is a malus domestica, or plain seedling apple. It probably is not very good.

Author:  tahir [ Sun Feb 18, 2007 4:03 am ]
Post subject: 

Crab apple (malus sylvestris) was commonly used as a rootstock in England, I visited a Cambridgeshire orchard last summer that had 1948 plantings of Howgate Wonder and Cox's Orange Pippin on crab that were still healthy and productive.

Author:  reisjdmd [ Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

thank you to applenut for the reply. a quick followup: when dad's folks planted apple seeds, they said that wild apple trees grew. does this make sense. unless i misunderstood, they were saying that an inedible wild fruit grew, not the edible parents that were the genetic precursors of the graft that produced the apple whose seed was planted. i think i screwed up this question by making it sound more complicated than it is. sorry. i'm new to this. nice forum.

Author:  Applenut [ Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:07 pm ]
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No, I didn't mean to say that seedling apples were inedible, they just weren't very good. On the other hand, one in ten thousand are very good and one in a million is exceptionally good. But for the most part they are dry, sour, mealy, hard, astringent, or tiny. Many will look somewhat like their parents, but a bite into them will usually tell that they are "spitters". They do however make a decent hard cider; something to do with the sugars and acids fermenting into something different.

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