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 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard 
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Hello,

I was recently reading about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, and the guy being interviewed was talking about how many apple varieties have been lost (something like 86%).

Today I was out working in the yard and it hit me that I have a very old apple tree, and perhaps someone might like to see if it's genes are worth preserving.

I would guess that the tree is at least 60-70 years old. We have lived here for 19 years, and it was ancient back then. It looks exactly the same as it did when we bought the lot. The apples are yellowish, but they are smaller than a normal golden delicious (but this could be due to its age or the fact that most of the tree is hollow). The tree is about 24" in diameter and about 25' tall. I have done nothing to care for it other than to remove dead branches. The lowest branches are about 15 feet off the ground.

I will try to remember to take a photo of the tree and post it here.

We live in Camas, WA (98607). I think the land was originally developed as sort of an orchard, as we also have an old walnut tree that is probably the same vintage as the apple tree. There are some old prune trees in the neighborhood as well (this area is known as "Prune Hill", after the prune orchards that were planted here starting in the 1880's).

If anyone is interested in this tree's genes (cuttings or whatever), let me know. As I said, the branches are pretty high so you'll have to use an extension ladder or climb the tree. I could probably make some cuttings if someone can tell me when and how to do it.

Every time we have an ice + wind storm (which is at least once a year), I keep thinking that will topple the tree. But the ice does not seem to faze it much, even though the core of the tree is rotted away.

Dave


Sat Jun 14, 2008 10:41 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1164
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
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Hey Dave, thanks for taking an interest in your old tree. We’ve HOS member’s who've trekked around the area looking for, identifying, and occasionally collecting scions from unusual specimens. The question is: how “unusual” is your specimen? Any more, 60 to 70 years isn’t that old for an apple tree.

The homestead I’m on was planted by my Great-grandfather over 80 years ago, and though the apple (and pear) trees are ‘old,’ they’re not that unusual… In fact, describing several of the varieties helped identify the age of the orchard. As usual, there were ‘cutting-edge’ varieties back then too! …But you don’t see much demand for “Winter Banana,” “Vanderpool Red” or “Transparent’s” these days… However, I apparently have an older variety of Gravenstein apple that has excited a few in our society, just as you may have an unusual spur (variant) cultivar as well..?

I’ve sent this link to one of our HOS Apple ID people; you could help by describing the fruit as detailed as possible. Also, every fall the Home Orchard Society has it’s All About Fruit Show somewhere near Portland, Oregon. We’ve a table of HOS’s best apple IDers … if you brought in a few apples and leaves, taken from locations around the tree, they’d likely come up with a good guess – after a taste-test of course :lol:

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Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:37 am
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
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I will get some photos of the tree and its leaves. I will obviously need to wait until the fall to get some photos of the apples.

Thanks,

Dave


Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:00 pm
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post Photos of tree
Here are some photos of the tree:

It is right on the property line. I had to custom-fit the fence around it.
Image

Image

Ouch! The tree was like this when we bought the lot 19 years ago. Most of the interior of the tree is hollow.
Image

Image

Image

Image

Image


Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:53 pm
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Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 9:18 am
Posts: 111
Location: Corvallis, Oregon USA
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Nice looking tree, for an older one that's been neglected - though I sure wouldn't blame just about anyone for not taking care of it; you could easily kill yourself on a ladder trying to prune or harvest it! It's WAY up there, and on a slope too! But at least could always do some with a pole pruner & picker. That's definitely a full size tree, no dwarfing rootstock here!
Dave


Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:48 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 1:30 pm
Posts: 46
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Dave,
Like Viron said, the second step of preserving the genes of your old tree is to identify the variety or at least determin if it's worthy of preservation. ( The first step was caring for the tree or at least not cutting it down.) We would be pleased to attempt an ID of your apple, so either bring some to our All About Fruit Show, or if you can't make it you can mail them to me. We like to have 4-6 good representative specimins, if it ripens too early, seal some in a ziplock bag and stick em in the fridge and make a note of the date. We don't have much use for leaves and twigs. Shaun

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S. Shepherd


Thu Jul 10, 2008 5:42 pm
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Well the inevitable has happened - the strong winds a few days ago broke off the tree mid-trunk (ignore the pile of chips, that is for another project):

Image

I see that the photos I previously embedded in this thread are no longer on flickr. Here are some photos of this tree and its fruit: http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/sli ... 9896JFpGyf

I am still not sure which variety this is, nor if it is worth trying to save some scions. I have never done any grafting but I want to try it. I cut some scions and will try to use them, but I'm not really sure how to store them nor exactly how to graft them. I have them in ziploc bags outside for now.

If someone wants to come cut some scions before I cut up the tree, let me know ASAP.

I have another apple tree that I grew from seed which produces tasty apples. Kind of like a crisp golden delicious. I am going to cut it down as well but would like to graft some scions from that.

I did not make it to the Fruit Show but I do plan to go to the next one.

Dave


Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:20 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1164
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Wow, sorry…

To gather scions: look for pencil diameter ‘water shoots’ of new (last years) growth, usually at or near the tree top. Gather a fist full, it gives more opportunity to match them with rootsock diameters. Cut one foot pieces; soak 3 full-sized pieces of newspaper in water; lift the newspaper and let it drain; roll the scions inside, overlapping the ends (I lay them at an angle for definite overlap); take two bread or heavy plastic shopping bags; place the wrapped scions inside (each end at the bottom of a bag); rubber band both ends and the center – as air-tight as possible; label the bag; stash it inside the far back of a refrigerator shelf and warn other users to ‘leave it along.’

Bring it to our Spring Cutting and Scion Exchange near the first of March; I believe it will be in Hillsboro (OR) this year. [pay at the door] Talk with our rootstock experts about your soil conditions, desired height and previous tree’s vigor then purchase as many rootstocks as you wish new trees; bring everything to the grafting tables [pay again] and let one of us graft if for you. Ask for Viron and you’ll get me; remind me what we’re dealing with – and I’ll do my best to make you some replacement trees!

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Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:02 pm
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Thanks Viron, this is exactly what I was hoping to find. One question about the procedure - many of the "water shoots" have 1"-3" long side branches on them - should I cut these off?

Thanks and I hope to see you at the Exchange!

Dave

Viron wrote:
Wow, sorry…

To gather scions: look for pencil diameter ‘water shoots’ of new (last years) growth, usually at or near the tree top. Gather a fist full, it gives more opportunity to match them with rootsock diameters. Cut one foot pieces; soak 3 full-sized pieces of newspaper in water; lift the newspaper and let it drain; roll the scions inside, overlapping the ends (I lay them at an angle for definite overlap); take two bread or heavy plastic shopping bags; place the wrapped scions inside (each end at the bottom of a bag); rubber band both ends and the center – as air-tight as possible; label the bag; stash it inside the far back of a refrigerator shelf and warn other users to ‘leave it along.’

Bring it to our Spring Cutting and Scion Exchange near the first of March; I believe it will be in Hillsboro (OR) this year. [pay at the door] Talk with our rootstock experts about your soil conditions, desired height and previous tree’s vigor then purchase as many rootstocks as you wish new trees; bring everything to the grafting tables [pay again] and let one of us graft if for you. Ask for Viron and you’ll get me; remind me what we’re dealing with – and I’ll do my best to make you some replacement trees!


Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:36 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1164
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Dave: “many of the "water shoots" have 1"-3" long side branches on them”

…dang. Older neglected apple trees reach an equilibrium in which their new growth is very balanced with the energy stored in their roots, therefore they don’t push out the 3 to 4 foot ‘water suckers’ like managed trees. In this case - one year shoots don’t have branches; the new growth is likely that 4 to 6 inch ‘tip’ beyond the branches, usually indicated by a circular bud scar, where the terminal or tip bud started last year.

OK, search and salvage the longest sections of one-year growth you can find. I’ve done it … usually on vertical trees… Check the ‘sunny side’ first, looking for smooth-skinned non-branched pencil diameter ‘stems,’ usually a slightly different color (greenish/redish) than surrounding bark. If they're bending, or growing sideways, they’ll still work – not all first year wood grows straight up. Also, look around wounds, the more recent the better; a tree will generally push out a few ‘latent buds’ at a wound, often growing along side the trunk. Same characteristics – no side ‘limbs’ - just smooth and tight buds.

If you can’t find any of prime shoots… the little ones can work~ And, we occasionally graft older wood; experience allows you to differentiate between a fruit and a vegetative bud… but we’d much rather work with pure veggie buds, less thinking! Also, that 4 to 6 inch piece of new growth will work… though we’ll likely grumble … usually making a two-piece cleft graft, amounting to microsurgery on a one year rootstock - but it's like getting 'two grafts for the price of one!' …those often get sent my way… as I’ll look down the table at several grinning grafters :lol:

So, gather what you can, if it’s real slim pickin’s – bring even more. And do snip off those side ‘limbs’ you described – but wrap em up and bring them, too – they’re likely a year old and useful (if tiny). We'll sift through everything looking for the best buds, and as long as there are ‘two in a row,’ we’re generally good – depending on how many trees you’d like... Hey – I’m ready to graft :mrgreen:

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Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:45 am
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Thanks Viron. I think if I keep it to pencil-diameter I should be OK. I'll just have to search a bit harder. There is no problem getting shoots from the top of the tree now! (Because the top is on the ground).


Mon Jan 11, 2010 9:32 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 1:30 pm
Posts: 46
Location: Portland, Oregon
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Hey Dave,
I looked at the pictures of the fruit you posted. Your tree was/is Winter Banana, pretty common and I think tasty old apple, makes great apple juice. (Don't know why I did'nt see a reply notification back when you posted them)
You know if you leave that tree alone it'll probably grow a new top and go another 20 years or longer

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S. Shepherd


Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:22 pm
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Shaun Shepherd wrote:
Hey Dave,
I looked at the pictures of the fruit you posted. Your tree was/is Winter Banana, pretty common and I think tasty old apple, makes great apple juice. (Don't know why I did'nt see a reply notification back when you posted them)
You know if you leave that tree alone it'll probably grow a new top and go another 20 years or longer

Thanks Shaun that is the first ID I have been able to get on this tree! I do plan to just cut off the broken part, leave the rest standing and see what happens. But only the outer shell is alive, the center of the tree is completely hollow from the ground up. However as you saw in the photos it still produced decent apples, even with severe wounds and no care from me besides 1 pruning 20 years ago. But I am sure it helped pollinate my other trees.

If anyone here is into wood carving I'd be happy to save the solid parts for you (though there is not a lot). I have carved apple in the past, it is really nice to work with.


Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:29 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1164
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Quote:
I do plan to just cut off the broken part, leave the rest standing and see what happens. But only the outer shell is alive, the center of the tree is completely hollow from the ground up.

…I was considering the same suggestion as Shaun… leaving the stump to send up new shoots, if eventually a new tree … I’m sure it’s well above the original graft. And, it’s very common for apple trees that old to have rotted centers, I’ve got one myself, my largest and best producing tree! That ‘outer shell’ is all you need. I’d leave it, without any ‘leveling cuts,’ just let it send up shoots, likely six footers!

Winter Banana apples are unique in appearance, so I’d trust Shaun’s ID; and the age & size would make sense, too. You can still buy them. I had one on my old homestead, at that time - the largest of all my (standard) apple trees. ...Rigged a shortwave radio antenna from it to the house chimney and listened to the world!

Hey, if it’s a WB – you could bark-graft some Bartlett pears into that trunk! That’s one of the few apple/pear combos that survive. In fact, I’d slide in several different apple varieties under the bark when it slips this spring, let the top push out the original WB’s, then train everything (next year) into a useful tree – even lean a few branches over (or threw) the fence for the neighbor :D

See what Grafting Fever’s like :mrgreen:

Your call!

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Mon Jan 11, 2010 9:55 pm
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Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:45 pm
Posts: 100
Location: Camas, Washington
Post Re: 70+ Year Old Apple Tree in Our Yard
Well this just keeps getting better and better!

Any advice on where to cut it? The break is about 7 feet above the ground. I was thinking of just making a slightly sloped cut (to help it shed some water) at about 6'. Would it be OK to use a chainsaw for the final cut or should I use a fine-tooth handsaw?

I'm not sure what you mean by "leveling cut".

I did a google search for winter banana photos and I think Shaun is right - they look to be a perfect match for my apples. I have been trying to figure out the variety of this tree for many years.

If I can get my grafting skills up, I will definitely try grafting some other varieties, maybe even a pear as you suggest!

However I still want to save some scions and get a few grafted onto another tree, for nostalgia if nothing else. We just had a landscape plan done (after 20 years!) and the old tree was a key part of the plan. There are a number of other old apple trees in the neighborhood that I would also like to have in the yard just for fun. I live on "Prune Hill" in Camas, which used to be covered with fruit trees and there are still a number of fruit & nut trees here and there. Besides the old apple we also have an old English Walnut, about 4' in diameter. I have two other apples, a crabapple, and two apples I grew from seed, one of which is super healthy and makes tasty apples, the other one is pretty stunted and produces hardly any leaves, much less apples. It never really recovered from deer browsing.


Mon Jan 11, 2010 11:16 pm
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