gravenstein apple blooms in april garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest

Apple Hanky Panky

Apple pollination is tricky.

gravenstein apple blooms in april garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

It’s not the usual introduction of two flowers.   An apple flower needs to hook up with a flower from another tree.

That means a single apple tree in an otherwise empty orchard is doomed.  The tree is not ‘self fertile’.  It needs a pollination partner.  Isn’t that romantic?

gravenstein apple, garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

But wait — there’s more.  An apple flower needs to hook up with a flower from another apple of a different variety.   

That  means 2 McIntosh trees in an otherwise empty orchard are doomed, too.   (No kissing cousins.)

Luckily the 2 apple trees in our yard are different varieties.

McIntosh and; Gravenstein apple bloom overlapping is rare, garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

Unfortunately their bloom times don’t always overlap. The Gravenstein (on the right side of photo) is an early bloomer.  The flowers are often so battered by april showers, few are left when the McIntosh (on the left side of photo) blossoms in May.

What chance do they have for setting fruit?

A full crop
photo by SVSeekins

And here’s another twist. Gravensteins are duds when it comes to pollinating other apple trees.

So our McIntosh helps set fruit on the Gravenstein, but it doesn’t get any love in return.  It needs an additional partner.

Seriously?  Do we really need a threesome in our yard ??

Here’s the good news.  It turns out that apples are sometimes open-minded.  When looking for love, they’ve been known to hook up with crabapple.

apple blossoms in May
photo by SVSeekins

The scandal!  Am I prepared for all this complication?  Not sure.

In reviewing the research & looking deeper, I discover there are a few (very few)  exceptions to all this hanky panky.  A Newton Apple is self-fruitful.  Pity there isn’t one in our garden.

I admire a tree that can ‘take care of itself’.

© SVSeekins, 2014

2 thoughts on “Apple Hanky Panky”

  1. You would think that there were enough “locals” in close proximity to get the job done. Aren’t there any close neighbors?

    1. In some ways there are fewer trees than in past years. I reckon folks are busy & don’t want to take time to care for fruit trees… but I think that’s changing. A nearby neighbor planted 3 apple trees a year or so ago. That seems to help with the McIntosh, but the Gravenstein blooms very early & seems very particular about partners.


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