[NAFEX] feral apples

Ed Fackler efackler at woh.rr.com
Sun May 2 05:08:34 EDT 2004


Thomas (and others):

     I recall several genuine "explorers" within NAFEX back in the late 70s
and early 80s.  Foremost was John Creech of Cumberland, KY who came upon a
few dozen in the mountains of western Virginia and eastern KY.  Henry
Converse was another who sought out these older local varieties.  The late
Fred Janson of Canada did the same.  For that matter during an extended
visit, Fred told me that as a group, collecting these old varieties was a
waste of time.  Fred was meticulous in collecting data on them, showing me
charts of their yields, storage abilities, etc.  He also told me that
published descriptions where bogus and/or severely distorted.  During the
same period, Elwood Fisher searched out and identified many.  Later on, Lee
Calhoun did the same.  Aside from relative mediocrity of these "antiques"
was the difficulty in defining (factual) authenticity of varietial trueness.
I even dabbled in it abit but only in evaluations.  I did however learn many
things over the 15-20 years of evaluations.
     There is some legit value in collecting these old ones.  Chiefly if one
retains any objectivity, it quickly becomes obvious that they (as a group)
are very inferior to newer varieties especially in quality and horticulture
ease of growing.  Also during the entire process, one becomes more familiar
with apple tree physiology, genetic inheritance and/or the evolution of
malus in North America.  And as Elwood and Lee can illustrate an added
"value" is that one can glean publicity and/or fame from this exercise.
     In a lecture at the Virginia NAFEX meeting some few years back, Elwood
finally got enough courage to state flatly that many, if not most so-called
"heirloom" varieties should have become extinct years ago due to mediocrity.
     Lastly, there seems to be some pseudo "moral" aspect in collecting this
old stuff, somewhat akin to dogmas of religions.  Can't quite put a finger
on it, but without exception this element seems to hang around and distorts
descriptions blatantly.
     Anyway more specifically, if you'd want to collect old southern
varieties, I'd contact Lee Calhoun and/or Dave Vernon as they both have many
of them.  Lee in particular has identified a few which have strong
resistance to CAR which is likely the most damaging disease of apples in the
hot humid south.

     And if you'd like to contact John Creech email me off line.

Ed, So. Ohio.........rains daily

-----Original Message-----
From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org]On Behalf Of Thomas Beckett
Sent: Saturday, May 01, 2004 11:17 PM
To: North American Fruit Explorers
Subject: [NAFEX] feral apples


	Part of the lore I have picked up about NAFEX is that, in the old days
at least, members were oftentimes literal "fruit explorers", seeking out
rare specimens in the wilderness areas and trekking through the
backwoods to find abandoned orchards for those heirloom varieties.

	My question relates to the latter activity:  where does one look for
stands of old apple trees?  Did y'all compile a guidebook or list?  I'd
love to make some day trips this fall seeking out old Southern apples in
the Blue Ridge or Southern Appalachians.  How would I begin to locate
such places?

	Many thanks,

Thomas
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