In the 1990s researchers from the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station (NYSAES) at Geneva, NY, visited the fruiting forests of Kazakhstan in central Asia - believed by many to be a likely birthplace of the modern apple. They brought back numerous seedlings of a species of wild apple called Malus sieversii. In 2010 researchers of the Italian apple genome project completed sequencing of the genome of a Golden Delicious apple From this they were able to confirm that the species Malus sieversii was indeed the ancestor of the modern apple.
There is certainly something strange and ancient about this species. Malus sieversii trees have little fruiting or ornamental value, but the fruits are edible and can be used for cooking or juicing - they mostly have a plain subacid flavor.
Malus sieversii trees bloom in the middle of the modern apple blossom season, and the fruits ripen in the middle or end of the season.
Malus sieversii trees exhibit good natural disease resistance, but seem to be susceptible to fireblight.
The skin color is extremely variable, from light green to red. Size is also quite variable, but generally smaller than modern apples. Perhaps the main point is the sheer diversity of size and color exhibited by this species.
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.
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