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All about apples, pears, plums, and cherries - and orchards where they are grown

Norfolk Royal Russet apple

Norfolk Royal Russet

Norfolk Royal Russet is a sport of Norfolk Royal, and one of the best examples of how a sport differs from (and can improve on) the original variety.  A "sport" is a variation of the original variety which is distinctly different in some way.  Because red is perceived as an attractive colour for apples, the most popular sports tend to be those which cause redder-coloured apples than the original - such as Red Gravenstein or Red Falstaff.  However, as the name suggests, Norfolk Royal Russet is a russeted form of Norfolk Royal - an attractive early 20th century red dessert apple.

Sports do not arise that often, but are not difficult to find if you know what you are looking for.  A sport usually occurs because of a genetic mutation or fault in a new shoot.  As the shoot grows into a branch, all the leaves or fruit on that one branch will be noticeably different from the rest of the tree.  The difference could be a more interesting colouration of the fruit, or the fruit on the sport branch may appear to be less affected by disease.  If the sport characteristics are desireable the grower can propagate new trees from the sport branch, and these new trees will then be identical to the sport branch rather than the original tree.  It is sometimes said that sports are genetically identical to the original variety, but this is debateable since the sport could be the result of a mutation or it could be the result of a different expression of the same genetic structure.  Either way, a sport is far closer genetically to its original variety than a normal variety bred from parent varieties would be.  It is probably best thought of as a failed clone rather than an offspring in the conventional sense.

Norfolk Royal is a very attractive apple, both in colour and shape.  Norfolk Royal Russet retains this attractiveness, but adds a glorious golden russet tinged with red and gold flushes.  It must surely qualify as one of the best-looking apples.  It has the classic English russet flavours, sweet and pear-like, with soft-chewy slightly dry flesh - very moreish.  As with most russets, it somehow seems more appropriate to eat this apple by cutting it into slices first, rather than just biting into it.

All in all this is a superb apple for a decorative display, which is also extremely good to eat.

Norfolk Royal Russet apple identification images

All images copyright Orange Pippin unless otherwise stated.

  • Norfolk Royal Russet
  • Norfolk Royal Russet
  • Norfolk Royal Russet

USDA identification images for Norfolk Royal Russet

The identification paintings in the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection span the years 1886 to 1942.

    Citation: U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705.


    This variety is a sport (natural genetic mutation) of: Norfolk Royal

    Visitor reviews

    • 03 Mar 2024 
      The best Apple I've ever tasted. Grafted many a mature tree over to these. It's like a redder, sweeter Egg Russet with extra fizz.
    • 06 Oct 2018  ABERDEEN, United Kingdom
      I found a packet of these at Marks & Spencer - a wonderful rich, sweet and aromatic flavour. One of the best apples I've ever tasted.
    • 02 Jul 2017  United Kingdom
      So delicious, I planted one on my parents' burial plot.
    • 17 Oct 2016  SURREY, United Kingdom
      Thought I'd push the boat out and try one, even though my brain was stupidly yelling at me about the word "russet" (I hate Ergemont Russets). A revelation. One of the best flavoured apples I've had for a long time. I tend to get bored with supermarket apples, they are so bland compared with fresh-from-the-tree fruit. Texture is quite soft compared to the crisp fruit I normally go for. I have to admit that texture is one of my main reasons for hating the ER, but the NRR, thankfully, isn't nearly that spongy! Maybe I'll get to try a Norfolk Royal one day.
    • 02 Oct 2010  NORFOLK, United Kingdom
      OK - actually now living in New Zealand and would love to get a sapling, but not likely. This is the most delicious apple you will ever eat. 'nuff said.

    Tree register

    United Kingdom



    Spring blossom records for this variety

    2018 season

    • 6th May  2018  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2017 season

    • 4th May  2017  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2016 season

    • 13th May  2016  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2015 season

    • 1st May  2015  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2014 season

    • 28th April  2014  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2013 season

    • 23rd May  2013  - tree owned by Richard in York, United Kingdom

    Record your blossom dates in our Fruit Tree Register - more >>.

    Harvest records for this variety

    2017 season

    • 1st week October  2017  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2016 season

    • 4th week October  2016  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2015 season

    • 4th week September  2015  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom

    2014 season

    • 2nd week October  2014  - tree owned by Bill in Smeeton Westerby, United Kingdom


    • Species: Malus domestica - Apple
    • Parentage: Sport of Norfolk Royal
    • Originates from: Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
    • Introduced: 1983
    • UK National Fruit Collection accession: 1973-048


    • Country of origin: United Kingdom
    • Period of origin: 1950 - 1999
    • Fruit colour: Russet
    • Flower colour: Pink - light
    • Leaf colour: Green
    • Popularity: Best sellers
    • Annual cycle: Deciduous


    • Picking season: Mid
    • Keeping (of fruit): 2-3 weeks
    • Flavour quality: Very good
    • Flavour style (apples): Sweet/Sharp
    • Discoloration of fruit: Oxidising
    • Cropping: Good
    • Fruit persistence: Normal ripening
    • Food uses: Eating fresh
    • Picking period: mid-September
    • Wildlife: RHS Plants for Pollinators


    • Gardening skill: Average
    • Flowering group: 3
    • Pollinating others: Average
    • Ploidy: Diploid
    • Vigour: Average vigour
    • Bearing regularity: Regular
    • Fruit bearing: Spur-bearer
    • Attractive features: Attractive fruit
    • Self-fertility: Not self-fertile


    • Climate suitability: Temperate climates
    • Climate suitability: Mild damp climates
    • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cool ( 20-24C / 68-75F)

    Where to buy fresh fruit

    No orchards have registered as growing this variety. If you grow this and want to register please go to our Orchard Registration form.

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