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Malus domestica - common apple, orchard apple, or just apple

The common (or domestic or orchard) apple has been grown for thousands of years and its origins are still uncertain. A central role has been played by the central Asian species Malus sieversii, called Eve’s apple in Finnish. Genetist and breeder Nikolai Vavilov studied the apple forests on the Tien-shan-mountains in the 1930s and came to the conclusion that this unique large-fruited wild apple had developed without any human influence, spreading with the aid and assistance of bears, which ate the fruit and distributed the seed. In antiquity, this apple spread along the Silk Road into China and the Mediterranean basin, after which it has possibly hybridised with other wild species. Vavilov’s view that the domestic apple and Eve’s apple are one and the same species has gained some support from recent genetic studies.

Nowadays the apple has been spread by man all over the world and is the biggest fruit producer of any species. There are thousands of named varieties, with several hundred in Finland. When A. F. Tigerstedt became master of Mustila Manor in 1901 it was obvious an orchard would be established on manor land. However, these apple tree plantings were limited to the area immediately around the manor house, not in the area now making up the Arboretum.

At the beginning of this millennium, new varieties have been planted in the Arboretum proper, mainly Russian and Estonian in origin, which have been little tried here. Some of them have inherited resistance to apple scab from the Japanese crab (Malus floribunda), which makes them suitable for organic farming.


Malus toringo var. sargentii - Sargent crabapple

A cloud of white flowers on a stiff-branched thorny bush make an interesting combination which seems almost unreal. The same sensation is repeated in autumn when the dark twiggy branches are decorated by a multitude of tiny red apples. These combinations are offered by the Sargent crabapple, and in between the bush dresses itself in yellow and red autumn leaves.

Native to Japan and Korea, this broad bush makes an impassable screen when planted as a hedge. The leaves on long shoots are strongly 3-lobed, while the leaves of flowering shoots are entire and smaller. The white flowers are in groups of about five, the flower buds red before opening.

The Sargent crab grows abundantly throughout the Arboretum, even in stiff clay. Unlike many other apples, it also flowers well in semi-shade, for example in forest where there are gaps in the canopy. The berry-like fruit persist long into the winter, and surprisingly the shrubs seem not to be bothered much by hares.


Malus sylvestris - wild crab

The wild crab grows naturally throughout most of Europe but in Finland it is limited to the very south-west of the country. Other than in the Åland islands it is protected.

The wild crab is more or less thorny, with leaves entire, and monoecious (i.e. bears both male and female flowers on the same tree). The white flowers often appear in groups of five, with no contact between the petals. On careful study, the flowers can be seen to have five styles grown together, but at the tip all five can be distinguished. The green fruit is at most 3 cms in diameter, hard and bitter, with remains of the calyx lobes persisting.

Because the wild crab crosses easily with domesticated varieties, its identification is always rather problematic. One tip is that the young stems and leaf undersides of the hybrids classed under the catch-all M. pumila are downy, unlike the wild crab.


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