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Orchard Trees - Apples

( Originally Published 1927 )

The chance apple tree beside the road, with fruit too gnarly to eat, is common on roadsides throughout New England. Occasionally one of these trees bears edible fruit, but this is not the rule. Perhaps the seed thus planted was from the core of a very delicious apple, nibbled close, and thrown away with regret. But trees thus planted are seedlings and seedling apple trees "revert" to the ancient parent of the race, the wild apple of eastern Asia. Horticulture began long ago to improve these wild trees, and through the centuries improvement and variation have stocked the orchards of all temperate countries with the multitude of varieties we know. A visit in October to Nova Scotia or to the Yakima Valley in Washington, is an eye-opener. Thousands of acres of the choicest varieties of this most satisfying of all fruits show the debt we owe to patient scientists, whose work has so enriched the food supply of the world.

The pear, the quince, and the curious medlar, with its core exposed at the blossom endóall relatives of the apple trace their lineage to European and Asiatic wild ancestors. The Siberian crab, native of northern Asia, is the parent of our hard-fleshed, slender-stemmed garden crabapples. Japan has given us some wonderful apple trees, with fruit no larger than cherries, cultivated solely for their flowers. The ornamental flora of America has been greatly enriched by these varieties.

Four native apples are found in American woods. Horticulturists have produced new varieties by crossing some of these sturdy natives with cultivated apples, or their seedling offspring.

The Prairie Crab

Malus IoŽnsis, Britt.

The prairie crabapple is the woolly twigged, pink-blossomed wild crab of the woods, from Minnesota and Wisconsin to Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. It has crossed with the roadside "wilding" trees and produced a hybrid known to horticulture as the Soulard apple, from its dis-coverer. These wild trees bear fruit that is distinctly an improvement upon that of either parent. It is regarded as a distinctly promising apple for the coldest of the prairie states, and has already become the parent of several improved varieties.

The Wild Crab

M. coronaria, Mill.

Throughout the wooded regions, from the Great Lakes to Texas and Alabama, the wild crabapple brightens the spring landscape with its rose-colored, spicy-scented blossoms. The little trees huddle together, their flat tops often matted and reaching out sidewise from under the shade of the other forest trees. The twigs are crabbed in-deed in winter, but they silver over with the young foliage in April. The coral flower buds sprinkle the new leaves, and through May a great burst of rose-colored bloom overspreads the tree-tops. It is not sweetness merely that these flowers exhale, but an exquisite, spicy, stimulating fragrance, by which one always remembers them.

The pioneers made jellies and preserves out of the little green apples (see illustrations, pages 150-151), which lost some of their acrid quality by hanging on until after a good frost. There are those who still gather these fruits as their parents and grandparents did. In their opinion the wild tang and the indescribable piquancy of flavor in jellies made from this fruit are unmatched by those of any other fruit that grows.

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