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Wolf River apple

Wolf River

A well-known American cooking apple, notable for its large size.  Wolf River is mainly used for cooking, and it keeps its shape when cooked.  It is fairly sweet and doesn't need much sugar added.

Wolf River has a very high natural resistance to the disease apple scab, and good resistance to fireblight and mildew.  It is also very cold hardy, making it a good choice for growing in the northern part of North America.

Wolf River apple identification images

All images copyright Orange Pippin unless otherwise stated.

  • Wolf River
  • Wolf River
  • Wolf River
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USDA identification images for Wolf River

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

  • USDA watercolor image of Malus domestica: Wolf River
  • USDA watercolor image of Malus domestica: Wolf River
  • USDA watercolor image of Malus domestica: Wolf River

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

Parents and other ancestors of this variety

Offspring of this variety

Visitor reviews

  • 07 Jun 2019  MI, United States
    I planted 4 wolf river trees in my home orchard..These are decent apples for fresh eating, but they are excellent pie apples..Apples are very large and get a lot of their size later in the growing season. One thing people should remember about many varieties of apples, if you pick them too early, they may not taste quite right..That is true about the wolf river apple..let them mature fully before trying to eat them fresh off the tree..A great apple for anyone who is thinking about planting apple trees
  • 17 Oct 2018  WI, United States
    I have a wolf river tree for almost 10 years. And yes so far the apples have been spongy, dry , tasteless. Except for this year. We had an abundance of rain here in Wisconsin and an early frost. I had one yesterday and WOW. JUICY , mildly tart, greatTexture, and huge!’ Well worth the wait. Best year yet for production!! Branches broke from the weight.
  • 03 Oct 2018  PA, Australia
    the only good thing my dad had to say about wolf river apple was it looked good and people would buy them
  • 30 Aug 2018  PENNSYLVANIA, United States
    Agree that the Wolf River is a prized cooking apple. In 1977 when we bought our house, we acquired an old apple orchard that was planted in 1925. Of the 7 or 8 different apple varieties planted we always favored the apples from the one tree that nobody could identify. For 30 years we baked apple pies, crisps, etc. and made buckets of delicious pink applesauce. Sadly that tree has been dying for a few years and left us no choice but to find someone/anyone to identify the apple variety. We mailed an apple to Adams County Nursery in Pennsylvania who not only identified it but also sold us a mail order tree. Two years after planting it we were walking through a Walmart and were surprised to see a Wolf River apple tree buried among the sea of fruit trees for sale. Of course, we just had to buy it. The trees are producing now — although not yet fully mature — and we happily enjoyed an apple crisp with ice cream tonight.
  • 09 Oct 2017  MN, United States
    I don't find Wolf River apples to be sweet - they're not extremely acidic or sour, but I wouldn't call them sweet. They have a very clean, fresh flavor, which I think carries through when they're cooked. They produce a lot of juice in pies, where their flavor intensifies and their mild tartness is heightened. Fairly tasty raw, but really terrific when cooked.
  • 04 Oct 2017  OREGON, United States
    I bought these to dehydrate due to their huge size. They dry quickly due to low moisture. When you eat a dried slice, it dissolves into apple sauce. What a treat!
  • 28 Aug 2017  WI, United States
    I planted a Wolf River four years ago along with around seven other different other varieties. That winter was the coldest I can remember so all the other trees died the following summer. But the wolf river survived just fine. This year the tree had ten large apples on it, so I have been pretty excited about trying one. My daughter and I noticed that one had fallen off the tree on August 27. (Did not freeze yet) So we brought it in the house to try it. Was very disappointed with the taste and texture, very dry and bland with strange almost sponge like texture. I'm hoping the apples will taste better after a frost or if used for cooking.
  • 06 Sep 2016  IDAHO MOUNTAINS, United States
    I planted a Wolf River tree six years ago and picked the first apples this year. Darn. It hasn't frosted yet, so they don't taste very good. Will still enjoy in cooking and do better next year. Love this site. Thank you.
  • 02 Sep 2015  WI., United States
    what's up with these apples, they are so dry and tasteless its like trying to eat cork board! I'am thinking of pulling out the tree.
  • 25 Jul 2015  WISCONSIN, United States
    Theses are the best eating and baking apples ever! We have 10 varieties of apple trees and these are by far the best apples I have ever grown!
  • 26 May 2015  MAINE, United States
    I just moved to an old farm in Maine and was told more than once that I have some Wolf River apple trees out in an orchard! I can't wait to find out which trees they are. This has been a great blog site to understand more about this tree. TY
  • 27 Sep 2014  CT, United States
    When I was growing up in Wisconsin my dad worked at an apple orchard that had a few Wolf River trees. I remember that I took a huge one to school and gave it to my teacher.
  • 09 Oct 2013  United States
    This is one of the best eating ("out of hand") and cooking apples. It is crispy and tart with enough sweetness.
  • 18 Sep 2013  WI,FLORENCE, United States
  • 26 Aug 2013  WCONSINIS, United States
    I remember back in the 1940's a nabor bob gruaman dad had wolf river applestrees on his farm to feed the cows & we use to eat them all the time and bring home for pies ect in 1970 i built my home & planted wolf river apples red & green two verities .They are still producing very good & I added two more . I sell a lot of them . some to the schools for cooking classes up to 100 mles away every year I also have 25 other varities growing that I sell in front of my home. U can get the trees from Jung seed company.
  • 16 Jan 2013  MICHIGAN, United States
    When I was a kid (I'm 70 now) we had a wolf river apple tree in our front yard. It was one of about 3 apple trees. We did not farm, so we never sprayed the trees for rose chafers. The other apple trees had fruit that was so wormy and stunted that it was inedible. The wolf river apples, however, did not seem to be affected by the rose chafers and the fruit was very large. One thing, though. If the fruit fell to the ground it would rot almost immediately. We used to go out in the morning and pick up the fruit that had fallen since the day before. My mother would core them and slice them and dip the slices in pancake batter and fry them. They were delicious.
  • 12 Dec 2012  WI, United States
    I grew up with a large standard sized Wolf River tree in our yard. It produced some of the largest apples I have ever seen. The biggest was almost enough for a pie! The flesh is somewhat dry, primarily for cooking only.
  • 23 Oct 2012  CA, United States
    We have two Wolf River apple trees on our property. They usually produce the largest apple we have ever seen. They are not very good fresh eating but worth growing for they are delicious cooked in various dishes. It is a beautiful tree also. The better of the two trees is right next to our parking lot thus gets all the attention from visitors.
  • 11 Sep 2012  MS, United States
    We had one tree of this type on the south side of our apple orchard. I will be in the Winneshiek county area latter on this month and will try to locate this tree as I know precisely where it was. I am more than convinced that the tree I have in mind was a Wolf River.
  • 21 Oct 2011  ONTARIO, Canada
    Found Wolf River for the first time at the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market north of Kitchener-Waterloo. I found the apples to have a tart, subtle flavour; definitely something "old style" about the taste. They are attractive apples. I juiced some to add to my cider blend.
  • 30 Sep 2011  ONTARIO, Canada
    These awesome apples are getting harder to find. Many years ago I did an experiment with three apples (Spy, Cortland, Wolf River). I made three pies, exactly the same, but each with a different apple. I took these three pies to a dinner party. I told everyone that they HAD to have a slice of each, even if that slice was a smidgen. Only I knew which pie was which. All eleven people at that dinner chose the Wolf River pie, hands down! Amazing, eh?! I just called to order a bushel where I have always gotten them, and discovered they can no longer get them! The farmer that had them had cleared them out to plant something else! That's bordering on sinful!
  • 23 Jan 2011  BRITISH COLUMBIA, Canada
    Debra ~ Seameadows Farm/BC. We very much enjoy the wolf river apple after having tasted it fresh picked at the annual Salt Spring Island apple festival held late Aug/early Sept. The pies made locally are also available (and although a bit high in cost, the money go to local charity). wow! They are certainly a variety I would endorse, however not sure if they require a freeze prior to good taste as we really don't have a good freeze here annually, at least not before harvest.
  • 22 Oct 2010  MASS, United States
    I was told this apple needs to be hit by a frost before it gets its full flavor..an Old Farmer told me that it was considered a "Frost Apple" This would explain the blah flavor ....some people think the apple is tasteless...they eat it before the frost!
  • 19 Sep 2010  MONTANA, United States
    I bought them at a local supermarket when I lived in Michigan, I thought they were awsome and delicious. They were the biggest apples I ever saw and good pie apples too. I would like to get ahold of a twig or two to graft on my apple tree to carrie on their legecy.
  • 23 May 2010  ONTARIO, Canada
    I happened to be recalling my youth and how we used to climb this large apple tree in a cow pasture very close to my home in Madoc Ontario, and eat these incredibly large apples. This routine would repeat itself many times over the days of my youth. We snacked on these giants many times.....sometimes not by choice, as the cattle would chase us up the tree. I can recall my friends mother calling them Wolf River apples. The tree is located on the edge of town, in Madoc Ontario where I grew up. I will make a point of going to the site again to check on this tree, now that I know they live to such an old age. Gordon Reid Campbellford, Ontario
  • 20 Apr 2010  ONTARIO, Canada
    We have two Wolf River apple trees that are more than 100 years old. Every other year we get an abundant amount of fruit. Almost too much! Of course I make pies with them (they are wonderful frozen and uncooked...just pop them in the oven). My wife makes apple and mint jellies with them. Outstanding!! Would love to know how to do a graft of the trees before they are gone forever.
  • 29 Mar 2010  MICH, United States
    you need to buy a grafted wolf river tree to get wolf river apples. try jungs, or henry field's, or google others. this apple is rather blah for my taste, but if you add lemon, it helps.
  • 29 Mar 2010  MICH, United States
    there are a lot of catalogs that carry wolf river. origin in wolf river, wis. your seeds may grow into something good, it will take years to know. do not expect to get wolf river apples from the seeds tho. you have to graft to do that, or buy a grafted tree. some people like wolf river, they are big, but rather blah for my taste. add cinnamon, sugar and lemon and they can come out decent. try jungs, or henry field catalogs, or google for them.
  • 20 Mar 2010  ID, United States
    I recently acquired some Wolf river apple seeds from my grandfathers tree. His tree is in Washington state on the west side of the mountains. He says that about every other year the tree is packed, the year before last it produced 40 boxes worth of apples. His largest apple to date was 8" in diameter and 24" around, I am trying to grow some seeds he sent me to see if they will grow here in Idaho and was wondering if anyone has any suggestions. I'm using a small store bought green house just to get the seeds to sprout. My biggest problem is that none of the nurseries around here have even heard of the Wolf river apples, nor have they ever heard of an apple that grows that big. Thank you for any suggestions you might have.
  • 12 Dec 2009  SEARSMONT, WALDO, MAINE, United States
    I remember a wild Wolf River apple tree years ago in Searsmont. I am planning on planting some apple trees and wondered if that was really a type of apple or just a local name. They made the best pies. So glad to have found this.
  • 09 Oct 2009  ARGONNE, WI, United States
    We have a very old Wolf River in our front yard. It still bears beautiful big apples that make wonderful pies and sauce. I would like tofind a location to buy a new tree to start in the event this one should die. We have many varieties of apple trees on the farm but love this old one that started it all.
  • 07 Oct 2009  SIMCOE COUNTY, ONT., Canada
    Wolf River are my favourites for pie. They hold their shape better after cooking than any other variety I've tried. They are so big they won't fit in my apple peeler, corer and I have to peel most of them by hand. My hand is not big enough to hold many of them and it gets all cramped up, LOL, small price to pay for these wonderful fruit. They are NOT good to eat out of hand, tasting unlike any other apple I've eaten and having a solid, mealy texture. They are hard to find.
  • 05 Oct 2009  EWEN, MI, United States
    I have a wolf river apple tree, planted about 6 years ago. This year it is full of big beautiful apples...with absolutely no taste, either sweet or tart. Do they need time to develope flavor? At this point I am very disappointed in them.
  • 29 Sep 2009  GRAND HAVEN, MI, United States
    I love the Wolf River apple, VERY LARGE, 1-2 make a very nice pie. I counted, 30 to a 1/2 bushel. I make sauce, pie, crisp with them. Wonderful apple!! Got them off Maple Island Road in Muskegon County.
  • 27 Sep 2009  EAU CLAIRE, WI, United States
    I planted a Wolf River apple tree 5 years ago originally intending it to be ornamental, but now its big and beautiful and I would like it to bear. Can someone tell me how well does a flowering crab tree do as a pollinator and how close or far away should it be planted?
  • 13 Sep 2009  LAFAYETTE COUNTY, WISCONSIN, United States
    My Wolf River variety bore substantial fruit for the first time this year. (It's seven years old, but has not received the best of care) The apples are as big as a supermarket variety, good for eating out of hand. They are not mealy, and have a nice dry, meady taste.
  • 04 Jun 2009  ONTARIO, Canada
    I've never had a tree of this variety, but I used to buy these at Stouffeville farm market, years ago.....they're delicious for sauce......sauce is tart & has a slightly "bitter" flavour(maybe the word "bitter" sounds bad, but, I dont know how else to describe it.....I guess it's like with beer, where a bit of bitterness is actually delicious). Not so good fresh IMO....& yes, they're a BIG apple, about the same as Spy's , the ones I've bought, anyway.
  • 17 May 2009  TAMWORTH ONTARIO, Canada
    So did I. I estimate the tree to be 80 to 100 yrs old. Still flowering but apples not too big. Told that 1 apple could make 1 pie by my grandmother.
  • 01 Feb 2009  KINGSTON, ONTARIO, Canada
    We had a Wolf River applie tree in our backyard when I was growing up. Mum made pies with the apples (and applesauce with the windfalls). The apples held their shape and were delicious, sweet-tart.

Tree register

United States

United Kingdom


Spring blossom records for this variety

2019 season

  • 12th June  2019  - tree owned by Steven in Skandia, United States
  • 12th June  2019  - tree owned by Steven in Skandia, United States
  • 11th June  2019  - tree owned by Steven in Skandia, United States
  • 11th June  2019  - tree owned by Steven in Skandia, United States

2018 season

  • 10th June  2018  - tree owned by Jo in Victoria, Canada

2015 season

  • 19th April  2015  - tree owned by Len in Aurora, United States
  • April  2015  - tree owned by J. in Elmira, United States

2014 season

  • May  2014  - tree owned by Daniel in Prior Lake, United States

2012 season

  • 11th May  2012  - tree owned by Susanjames2 in West Newbury, United States
  • May  2012  - tree owned by Judy in Pineridge, United States
  • April  2012  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States
  • April  2012  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States

2011 season

  • 19th June  2011  - tree owned by Susanjames2 in West Newbury, United States
  • April  2011  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States
  • April  2011  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States

2010 season

  • May  2010  - tree owned by Kris in Holden, United States
  • April  2010  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States
  • April  2010  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States

2009 season

  • 18th June  2009  - tree owned by Jeremy in Montesano, United States
  • 12th March  2009  - tree owned by Hamlin in Toronto, Canada

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

Harvest records for this variety

2018 season

  • 3rd week September  2018  - tree owned by Jo in Victoria, Canada

2017 season

  • 1st week October  2017  - tree owned by Jerry in Warwick, United States

2015 season

  • 2nd week September  2015  - tree owned by Len in Aurora, United States
  • 4th week August  2015  - tree owned by Britt in Saint Joseph, United States

2012 season

  • 2nd week October  2012  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States
  • 1st week October  2012  - tree owned by Judy in Pineridge, United States
  • 2nd week September  2012  - tree owned by Susanjames2 in West Newbury, United States
  • 4th week August  2012  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States

2011 season

  • November  2011  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States
  • November  2011  - tree owned by Roy in Centralia, United States
  • 2nd week September  2011  - tree owned by Susanjames2 in West Newbury, United States
  • 3rd week August  2011  - tree owned by Phil in Winneconne, United States

2010 season

  • 3rd week September  2010  - tree owned by Kris in Holden, United States

2009 season

  • 3rd week October  2009  - tree owned by Jeremy in Montesano, United States
  • 3rd week October  2009  - tree owned by Hamlin in Toronto, Canada


  • Species: Malus domestica - Apple
  • Parentage: Alexander seedling?
  • Originates from: Wolf River, Wisconsin, United States
  • Introduced: 1870s
  • UK National Fruit Collection accession: 1943-005
  • We are grateful to Brogdale Farm - home of the UK National Fruit Collection - for providing samples of this variety.


  • Country of origin: United States
  • Period of origin: 1850 - 1899
  • Flower colour: White
  • Leaf colour: Green
  • Popularity: Best sellers
  • Annual cycle: Deciduous


  • Picking season: Late
  • Keeping (of fruit): 3 months or more
  • Flavour quality: Good
  • Flavour style (apples): Sweeter
  • Cooking result: Keeps shape
  • Discoloration of fruit: Slightly oxidising (browns slowly)
  • Cropping: Heavy
  • Fruit persistence: Normal ripening
  • Food uses: Culinary
  • Food uses: Juice
  • Food uses: Traditional cooker
  • Picking period: mid-September
  • Wildlife: RHS Plants for Pollinators


  • Gardening skill: Beginner
  • Flowering group: 3
  • Pollinating others: Average
  • Ploidy: Diploid
  • Vigour: Vigorous
  • Precocity: Slow to start bearing
  • Bearing regularity: Regular
  • Fruit bearing: Spur-bearer
  • Organic culture: Suitable
  • Self-fertility: Not self-fertile


  • Cold hardiness (USDA): Zone 3 (-40C)
  • Climate suitability: Temperate climates
  • Summer average maximum temperatures: Cool ( 20-24C / 68-75F)
  • Summer average maximum temperatures: Warm (25-30C / 76-85F)

Other qualities

  • Disease resistance: Good
  • Scab (Apple and Pear): Very resistant
  • Powdery mildew: Very resistant
  • Canker: Some resistance
  • Cedar apple rust: Some resistance
  • Fire blight: Some susceptibility

Where to buy trees

The following tree nurseries offer Wolf River apple trees for sale:

Where to buy fresh fruit

The following orchards grow Wolf River:

United States


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