Apples and Their Trees

by DerdriuMarriner

Apple trees may be cultivated in back yards, greenhouses, and orchards.

Apple trees are familiar fruit trees in the worldwide landscape and are the stuff of legends.

Apples, as Central Asia natives, crossed the Atlantic Ocean with European colonists to the New World. Known as Johnny Appleseed, Massachusetts native and pioneer nurseryman John Chapman (Sept. 26, 1774–March 11, 1845) is credited with planting apple trees in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia's northern counties.

Apple trees may be grown in back yards, greenhouses, and orchards. Their fruits have been lavished with praises in catchy aphorisms, such as:
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away;" and
"As American as apple pie."

colorful palette of apples

"Apples are an all-American success story-each of us eats more than 19 pounds of them annually."
"Apples are an all-American success story-each of us eats more than 19 pounds of them annually."

Apples: Description


The apple can be described as a complex, complicated fruit. The complexities and complications can be guessed from the apple's diversity in:

  • Appearance;
  • Fragrance;
  • Taste;
  • Texture.

For example, an apple can have skin colors of:

  • Almost brown;
  • Bright green;
  • Golden yellow;
  • Lush red;
  • Muted.

It may have fresh fragrances that foretell tastes as:

  • Bland;
  • Sour;
  • Spicy;
  • Sweet;
  • Tart.

Apple insides may range from a firm texture that packs a crunch or a soft consistency which crumbles. They may show flesh colors of:

  • Cream;
  • Green;
  • Pink;
  • White.

But apple characteristics can be changed or maintained depending upon propagation method. For example, apple trees that are propagated from seed and, therefore, called seedling trees, have no guarantee of turning out like the parent. In contrast, apple trees that are propagated by grafting produce predictable characteristics according to rootstock and cultivar or rootstock, interstem and cultivar.


Apples have an inner beauty that matches their external allure:

pretty to see, delicious to consume, and wonderfully healthy
"Potential health benefits of apple consumption."
"Potential health benefits of apple consumption."

Apple's Common Names in European Languages


Language                 Designation


Icelandic                     epli

Irish Gaelic                 úll

Italian                         la mela

Polish                         jabłko

Portuguese                a maçã

Romanian                   măr

Russian, Ukrainian     Я́блоко

Spanish                      la manzana

Swedish                      äpple

Turkish                        elma


Apple's Common Names in European Languages


Language                 Designation


Czech                         jablko

Danish                        æble

Dutch                          de appel

Esperanto                   pomo

Euskara                      sagar

Finnish                        tarhaomenapuu

French                        la pomme

German                      Äpfel

Greek                         μήλο

Hungarian                  a nemes alma


apple orchard in Sweden

"Cultivation of Apples" by Gunnar Magnusson
"Cultivation of Apples" by Gunnar Magnusson

Apple Cosmetics: Grafting


Not all grafting demands an interstem. But interstemming is a technique of particular interest to small-scale orchardists. Specifically, an interstem will be grafted onto the top of the rootstock and the bottom of the cultivar to:

  • Reconcile incompatible rooting and fruiting varieties;
  • Restrain above-ground growth.

For example, apple trees can be grouped according to mature height:

  • Standard, at 30+ feet (9.144+ meters);
  • Semi-standard, at 18 to 22 feet (5.49 to 6.71 meters);
  • Semi-dwarf, at 14 to 18 feet (4.27 to 5.49 meters);
  • Dwarf, at less than 11 feet (3.35 meters).

Each category needs to have at least the equivalent of its height in space between it and other structures, be they buildings, driveways, or trees. Under adequate growing conditions and with sufficient space, a standard-sized apple tree may be expected to produce 30 bushels each year for 70 years. In the way of comparison, a dwarf-sized apple tree may be expected to produce 10 bushels each year for 30 years. But each individual apple from both the dwarf- and the standard-sized apple trees should be similarly sized.


sustainable resources for pollinators:

honey bees (Apis mellifera) enjoy apple flowers
honeybee with apple blossom
honeybee with apple blossom

Apple Cosmetics: Pests and Other Factors


Other factors that also affect apple cosmetics nevertheless can impact upon the size of the mature apple. The following three emerge as among the most important of such factors:

  • Pollination;
  • Stress;
  • Weather.

For example, potential productivity is met when at least 8% of an apple tree's blossoms set. But setting occurs in response to adequate pollination and specific temperature ranges. Specifically, the resulting apple will be irregularly shaped if even one of its five core compartments is seedless. The resulting apple likewise will be unappealing in consistency, look and size if it even survives the internal damage wreaked by freezing temperatures and frosts.


apple pest

Codling moth (Cydia pomonella)
Codling moth (Cydia pomonella)


Because of the tree's yearly chill temperature requirement of 300 to 1,700 hours at below 45°F (7.22°C), the apple can be grown throughout the temperate zone and within the cooler highland enclaves of warmer regions. Such a large area of potential cultivation unfortunately exposes the apple to the environmental stress of bacterial, fungal, and insect pests, all of which leave calling cards in terms of impacting the apple's mature look:

  • Bacterial: Fireblight;
  • Fungal: Cedar apple rust, powdery mildew, scab;
  • Insect: Apple maggot flies, codling moths, European apple sawflies, plum curculio.


plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar): an apple's nemesis

The Plum Curculio: 1-full grown larva; 2-pupa, ventral; 3-pupa, dorsal; 4-adult, from side; 5-adult, dorsal; 6-adults, on plum twig in spring, eating; 7-larva damaged-cherries; 8-oviposition- and adult feeding-damages on young plums.
C.V. Riley and L.O. Howard, "The Plum Curculio." Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1888: Plate I, between pages 144-145
C.V. Riley and L.O. Howard, "The Plum Curculio." Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1888: Plate I, between pages 144-145


Traditionally, apples which are not going to be immediately baked or served fresh are the less desirable, small-sized fruits. A popular processing of such apples and of unexpected leftovers is canning by:

  • Boiling metal snap-lidded Mason jars for 20 minutes;
  • Dipping peeled, cored ¼-inch (6.35-millimeter) slices into lemon juice before drying between cheesecloth on dry, sunny table;
  • Filling jars;
  • Ladling into jars, with stainless steel spoon, boiled syrup of 40% honey to water from stainless steel saucepan;
  • Sealing;
  • Storing in cool dark place.


apple trees in fruit

apple  (Malus domestica Borkh.)
apple (Malus domestica Borkh.)

Apple Trees in autumn: harvest time and dormancy

Apples can be harvested late in the year. Specifically, the harvest can be just before the leaves drop from the trees in mid- to late fall. The gathering of apples indeed tends to involve the last of the year's fruit to be harvested.

Apples grow on deciduous trees. The word deciduous means “that which falls off.” It traces back to the Latin word deciduus. The Latin word in turn tracks back to the Latin verb decidere, which is formed from the suffix de- (“down”) and the infinitive cadere (“to fall”).

Falling leaves can be the most obvious sign of a tree shutting down for cold winter weather. A deciduous tree without leaves indeed is a tree which is heading towards becoming dormant (from the Latin present participle dormiēns, “sleeping”). An apple tree going dormant means that the tree needs downtime to focus on other life-sustaining processes.


harvest time: basketful of colorful apples

"Basket of Apples" by Gunnar Magnusson
"Basket of Apples" by Gunnar Magnusson

Slow season: key life support autumnal tasks as preludes for next year's success


Cultivators and gardeners can benefit from the slow season. They can structure the downtime into key life-support functions for their apple trees. They thereby will ensure the beauty, health, productivity and usefulness of their trees in spring, summer and fall months of the next year.


  • Specifically, the first important autumnal task involves removing fruits and leaves from the ground below their apple trees.

Leaf litter may decompose into natural fertilizer for soils. But in terms of apple trees, fallen leaves also will attract unwelcome attention from avian, bacterial, fungal, insect, mammalian and viral pests in search of forage and/or shelter. These autumnal activities will compromise an apple tree at its most vulnerable when it is shutting down defenses and turning towards more passive, storage-related endeavors.


  • A second important autumnal task is a soil moisture and temperature check.

This means making sure that the soil is not dried out when the desiccating winter months begin and the ground freezes. Prevention requires identifying and protecting the tree's drip line.

The drip line can be identified by plotting on the ground the reach of each of the tree's longest branches. The connected points form into a more or less perfect circle. The distance from the tree trunk to each drip point signals the tree's critical area in terms of beneficial or harmful impacts upon growth above and below ground. The ground will have to be kept clean throughout its entire area as well as moist 1 to 6 inches (2.54 to 15.24 centimeters) down, with the depth dependent upon:

  • Atmospheric moisture;
  • Environmental temperature;
  • Soil drainage and fertility.


old apple orchard, managed to perpetuate old varieties, not for commerce

Wisbech St. Mary, Cambridgeshire, East England
Wisbech St. Mary, Cambridgeshire, East England


  • A third important autumnal task connects to the above-mentioned soil moisture and temperature check.

It involves a monitoring of the ground cover beneath the apple tree. Gardeners oftentimes like to have growing beneath their apple trees grass or such attractive shade-tolerant plants as:

  • Azaleas (Pentanthera spp);
  • Currents, gooseberries (Ribes spp) and raspberries (Rubus spp);
  • Hosta (Hosta spp);
  • Pansies (Viola spp), peonies (Paeonia spp) and tulips (Tulipa spp).

The above-mentioned plants can maintain acceptably low levels of competition with apple trees for heat, light, moisture and nutrients. But the best situation involves a 2-inch (5.08-centimeter) layer of compost or organic mulch to:

  • Conserve moisture;
  • Discourage weeds;
  • Even out temperature extremes.

It requires mulching from 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) of the trunk to throughout an entirely unplanted drip line or to within a 1-inch (2.54-centimeter) ring around each of the plants in a drip zone with scattered plantings.


steaminess of heat generated by decomposing mulch pile:

mulch volcanoes are detrimental to trees; thin wide layers promote tree health; per International Society of Arboriculture, leave open zone around tree base to discourage homesteading by pests.


  • A fourth important autumnal task can be carried out in fall on an emergency basis.

But it is preferable to carry it out in ending weeks of winter. The apple tree will be pruned or trimmed of damaged, dangerous, dead, decaying, diseased, dying wood.


New England apple picking time: apples in Massachusetts

"apple tree"
"apple tree"

Conclusion: Legendary popularity of apples


In the early nineteenth century John Chapman, known popularly as Johnny Appleseed, planted nurseries of apple trees in a swath across the central United States, from the Midwestern state of Illinois eastward to the South Atlantic state of West Virginia. The trees took root in the soil and in the hearts of Americans, who have joined worldwide appreciators of the tasty fruit, with its legends stretching back to antiquity, to Greek mythology, and to the Old Testament.


In Greek mythology, orchard with golden apples of immortality is guarded by Ladon, dragon with 100 heads, and Hesperides, nymph gardeners:

11th penitential Labor of Hercules entailed locating the secret garden.
"The Garden of the Hesperides": c. 1892 oil on canvas by Frederic Leighton (December 3, 1830 – January 25, 1896)
"The Garden of the Hesperides": c. 1892 oil on canvas by Frederic Leighton (December 3, 1830 – January 25, 1896)



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


apple trees: prized by backyard orchardists

apple cultivar 'Limoncella'
apple cultivar 'Limoncella'

Image Credits


"Apples are an all-American success story-each of us eats more than 19 pounds of them annually.": Scott Bauer/USDA Agricultural Research Service, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @; via USDA ARS @

"Potential health benefits of apple consumption.": Mikael Häggström, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @

"Cultivation of Apples" by Gunnar Magnusson: Skånska Matupplevelser, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr @

honeybee with apple blossom: Eric Hoffmann (One Speckled Frog), CC BY ND 2.0, via Flickr @

Codling moth (Cydia pomonella): Olaf Leillinger (Olei), CC-BY-SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons @

C.V. Riley and L.O. Howard, "The Plum Curculio." Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1888: 57-77; Plate I, between pages 144-145: Public Domain, via the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library Digital Collections (NALDC) @; Not in copyright, via Internet Archive @; Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @

apple (Malus domestica Borkh.): Carl Dennis, Auburn University,, CC BY 3.0, via Forestry Images @

"Basket of Apples" by Gunnar Magnusson: Skånska Matupplevelser, CC BY-ND 2.0, via Flickr @

Wisbech St. Mary, Cambridgeshire, East England: Mark Shirley (scrumpyboy), CC BY 2.0, via Flickr @[email protected]/2197193325/

mulch: Mangrove Mike, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr @[email protected]/6785759963/

"apple tree": liz west (Muffet), CC BY 2.0, via Flickr @

"The Garden of the Hesperides": c. 1892 oil on canvas by Frederic Leighton (December 3, 1830 – January 25, 1896): Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @

apple cultivar 'Limoncella': Galloramenu, Public Domain (CC0 1.0), via Wikimedia Commons @

Iduns Jul-Nummer (Christmas number) 1901: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @; via GUPEA Göteborgs universitet Göteborgs universitetbibliotek @


Sources Consulted


Bennett, Jennifer. The Harrowsmith Book of Fruit Trees. Willowdale, Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books, 1991.

Blackburne-Maze, Peter. Fruit: an illustrated history. London, England: Scriptum Editions, 2002; Bufffalo, NY, USA & Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Firefly Books, 2003.

(Brita Larsson as Iðunn by Carl Larsson). Iduns Jul-Nummer (Christmas number) 1901.

  • Available via GUPEA Göteborgs universitet Göteborgs universitetbibliotek @

(Brita Larsson as Iðunn by Carl Larsson). Jugend: Münchner illustrierte Wochenschrift für Kunst und Leben. 1905: Band 1, No. 6.

  • Available via Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg (Heidelberg University Library) at:

Fruits and Berries. Mount Vernon, Virginia: The American Horticultural Society Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening, 1982.

Johnson, Fred; and A.A. (Alexandre Arsène) Girault. "The Plum Curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar Herbst.)" The United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology. Circular no. 73. Washington DC: April 14, 1906.

  • Available via Internet Archive at:

Riley, C.V. (Charles Valentine); and L.O. (Leland Ossian) Howard, "Miscellaneous Insects. The Plum Curculio. (Conotrachelus nenuphar, Herbst.) Order Coleoptera; family Curculionidae." Report of the Entomologist: pages 57-77. In: Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1888.

  • Available via the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library Digital Collections (NALDC) at:
  • Available via Internet Archive at:


Iðunn, Norse goddess, keeper of apples and granter of eternal youth:

1901 lithograph of his daughter Brita asIðunn by Swedish artist Carl Larsson (May 28, 1853–January 22, 1919)
Iduns Jul-Nummer (Christmas number) 1901
Iduns Jul-Nummer (Christmas number) 1901
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Beautiful Crystal Glass tree with six beautiful bright colored crystal glass apples on it.

Approximately 7 inches in height, with width of 5 inches. A random selection of colored balls/apples in included.
Lightahead® crystal glass colored apple tree

Advice from an Apple: sand-colored t-shirt by Earth Sun Moon ~ Available via Amazon

Advice: Be well-rounded ~ Let your plans ripen ~ Hold on to core values ~ Savor variety ~ Eat healthy ~ Know when to let go ~ Take a bite out of life!
apple-themed apparel

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 01/04/2023, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 12/23/2013

VioletteRose, Apples not only are tasty and healthy but they also are photogenic. Their varieties are simply amazing. Thank you for sharing your appreciation via your kind comments.

VioletteRose on 12/23/2013

I never knew there are different colors of apple flesh, the crystal apple tree looks beautiful!

DerdriuMarriner on 12/18/2013

frank, Rain and wind encourage fungi. Even the gentle rains and breezes with which you may be dealing on the allotment help spread fungal infections. Sulphur powder can be such a two-edged sword: It generally can be counted on to get the job done but it's super important to don proper protective equipment (PPE). Know that you are not alone in viewing sulphur powder as an irritant that irritates both the problem and the problem solver!

frankbeswick on 12/16/2013

I have few infections on my allotment, though the main trouble is fungus on the plums, which can be attacked with sulphur powder. But I found out the hard way that I needed a mask and goggles when applying it. Sulphur powder is an irritant.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/16/2013

frank, Leaves that are disease- and pest-free indeed work wonderfully as mulch. They also function nicely to retain just the right amount of moisture and to suppress weed growth. But as is the case with organic mulches, there can be the possibility of fungus. One such case is witches' butter (Tremella mesenterica), which provides unexpected color (and food sources for the adventurous palate).
It speaks to your cultivator's astuteness and your gardener's thumb that your allotment is problem-free, particularly considering you grow apples, which can be so attractive not only to humankind but also to just about everything else on the planet.

DerdriuMarriner on 12/16/2013

Mira, You are indeed correct in considering leaves as good sources of fertilizer. They are also good contributions for a compost pile and make good mulch. The problem is that in all 3 cases they must not be harboring diseases or pests.
It can be a charming scenario to go through leaf litter in Australia. You just might come across a hip-pocket frog family. On the other hand, sorting through leaf litter can be a gruesome experience because of contact with diseased foliage or with foraging pests.
Generally, though, the person who is not a heavy pesticide user probably can count on using leaf litter and yard waste as compost fertilizer or mulch.
Your appreciation of botany and biology is much appreciated.

Mira on 12/15/2013

Oh, that's another idea :)

frankbeswick on 12/15/2013

I must admit that I use leaves as a winter mulch on the allotment, and I have had no problems with fungi. I have a leaf mulch between some of my apple trees, but it is used partly as a weed suppressant.

Mira on 12/14/2013

I always learn so many interesting things from you. Take, for instance, this: "fallen leaves also will attract unwelcome attention from avian, bacterial, fungal, insect, mammalian and viral pests in search of forage and/or shelter." I often wondered why in the city the municipality cleans away these leaves. I thought they made good fertilizer. Didn't thing about how nature works. The fact that you're showing us bits of that that come from a deep knowledge of botany is truly wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

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