Worcester Tree Initiative
AN INDEPENDENT PROGRAM OF TOWER HILL BOTANIC GARDEN
Worcester Tree Initiative
AN INDEPENDENT PROGRAM OF TOWER HILL BOTANIC GARDEN
Tree of the Week Theme: Bark!
Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) are deciduous trees. Their hardiness zone is 4-8 and can grow in Worcester. The height is 70-90 ft and its spread is 50-70 ft. It features an irregular, oval-rounded crown. The Shagbark Hickory is native to North America. They can live up to 200 years or more. Some exceptional trees have continued to produce seeds through their 300th birthday.
It’s easy to see how they got their names! Their trunks are characterized by long, peeling strips of bark, very hard to miss. The bark of young trees is gray and smooth, but exfoliates in long strips with age. Some animals, like Indiana bats, make their homes in snug crevices beneath the loose bark.
This tree features smooth, medium yellow-green, compound leaves, each leaf having 5 finely-toothed, pointed leaflets. The leaflets range from 3-7” long and turn yellow to golden brown in fall. The flowers are monoecious and greenish yellow, they appear in late April or early May. The male flowers hang loosely and the female flowers in short spikes. Female flowers give way to edible, round nuts. Male and female flowers are produced on the same tree but in separate catkins. Catkins are spike-shaped flowers, typically found drooping on the tree. Shagbark hickory catkins appear after the leaves have emerged and typically occur in groups of three to five.
Hickories are members of the walnut family, and the fruit of the shagbark hickory is highly prized by both humans and wildlife. Each nut is encased in a moderately thick casing which splits open in four sections when ripe in the fall. The nuts were an important food source to Native Americans and early settlers, and are commercially sold today.
According to the 18th century naturalist John Bartram, the Native Americans used to store hundreds of bushels of these Hickory nuts for winter and it was one of the main sources of nutrition for them. Aside from eating the nut raw natives also used to boil the nuts in water and prepare “hickory milk”.
The wood is extremely hard and is used to make a variety of products including tool handles, ladders, gun stocks and furniture. Tool handles and athletic equipment are made of hickory wood because it is strong and has a high shock resistance. It is light brown and even though it is very hard it is also flexible. It is also used for interior finishing. Shagbark, bitternut and pignut hickory are grown extensively in Central Europe for timber. Hickory wood is often used to cure or smoke different meats. It is also an excellent firewood. Hickory is hotter burning than oak, maple and other popular hardwoods. Native Americans used the bark as a treatment for rheumatism and other ills.
A tree that is more than meets the eye. The Shagbark hickory has many important historical uses, and still holds significance to this day. It's not commonly found in urban settings but it's still a valuable forest species for all kinds of wildlife and timber.
Tree of the
Week Theme: Bark!
The London Plane tree is a widely planted street tree, and for good reason. Its attributes were discovered in London where the new hybrid (of the oriental plane and the American sycamore) first appeared around 1645. They are called “London planes” because they are and were so common throughout London because they were able to grow in the soot filled air of 19th century cities, and so became exceedingly popular, especially in London with its thick industrial era atmosphere. Its ability to withstand air pollution, drought and other adversities assures its popularity as an urban tree. Strong limbs also help make the London planetree a good choice where site conditions allow for its large size.
Beyond its reputation as a survivor, this tree is simply worth admiring. The unique bark and interesting branching give it amazing visual appeal—whether summer or winter. Develops a mottled bark with red-brown scales that flake to reveal green, white and yellow. Take that camouflage bark, for instance, it's more than just an accidentally attractive quality. It has that pattern of exfoliating bark, which it continually sheds throughout its lifetime, because it helps the tree cleanse itself of toxins it absorbs from its environment.
The london plane tree can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–9. It grows at a medium rate with height increases of 13–24" per year, and reaches a height of 75–100' and a spread of around 80' at maturity. The overall shape resembles a pyramid shape that shifts to a more oval silhouette over time.The London Plane lives longer than many other shade trees in urban settings.
The London Plane features large leaves up to 7" long and 10" wide that are serrated along the edges. They somewhat resemble the leaves of black, sugar and red maples. The flowers are red in April. Female clusters are red. Male clusters are green and smaller than the female clusters. There are also ball-like clusters of tightly packed seeds that are 1" in diameter.
The London Plane Tree is resistant to anthracnose. Anthracnose is a fungal disease that tends to attack many Eastern Hardwoods. This fungi creates dead areas or blotches on the leaves, it’s also referred to as fire blight.
The London Plane is most likely a hybrid between the American sycamore and the Oriental plane. It took a long time for these trees to meet — they were growing on opposite sides of the globe. But it seems the voyages of the early modern period with routine collections of specimens being brought home led to the American sycamore journey from its native eastern America, and the Oriental plane from southeast Europe. The first account of the Oriental plane in Britain is found in William Turner's 1548 book: Names Of Herbs. It was discovered that this hybrid could tolerate the smoke and grime of London. As a result, it has been widely distributed to cities throughout the moderate climate regions of the world for nearly 400 years.
Tree of the
Week Theme: Bark!
European Beech is a beautiful deciduous tree native to Europe is also known as Fagus sylvatica. They are considered by many to be one of the most beautiful trees out there. Their elephant-like bark gives them the ability to stand out if near any other trees.
This gorgeous European Beech is prone to a vicious disease, bleeding canker. Bleeding Canker is a potentially lethal disease to mature European Beech trees. The cankers appear as dark-colored areas with wet-looking or sappy material slowly oozing from the cankers. They severely damage the aesthetic value of the beech tree's bark. Fortunately, this disease is rare and treatable with fungicides.
The European Beech can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 4–7, and can grow in Worcester. It grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year, for mature height of 50–60' and a spread of 35–45'. They are found all over our city. They are some of the most beautiful and largest trees in the landscape. However, despite their size they are not as old as they may be perceived. They put on girth much more quickly than other trees.
It grows in an oval shape. Because the European Beech develops a dense canopy it works well for a hedge as it withstands heavy pruning. These trees have the tendency to branch close to the ground. It’s composed of shimmering green alternate leaves that are 2–4" in the spring. Because they are so dense, they provide excellent shade in the summer, as well as striking color come fall. The European beech is of course not the only of its kind, there are other species of beech that are crimson leaved. It harbors oblong, brown beechnuts that are ½–1" in diameter. Beechnuts are eaten by birds and mammals, serving as an important food for chipmunks and squirrels.
European beech is monoecious, so each tree will have both male and female flowers present in the spring. You can tell the difference between them by how they are formed on the tree. Females appear in little spikes and males are on long hanging clusters.
The European beech tree has an unmatched place in history. The beechnuts were food for prehistoric man and are still consumed today. The wood has been used for centuries for both fire and furniture in Europe. Historians claim that the first written European literature was inscribed on Beech bark in Sanskrit. The English word 'book" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "boc", a derivative for the Anglo-Saxon "beece" or Beech.
European Beech has quickly become recognized as the most versatile hardwood in the marketplace. Beech ranks among one of the most important European wood species and is consistently the #1 wood export among hardwood producing European countries because of its excellent physical properties and light colored appearance suitable for a wide range of stains and finishes. It is a wood that machines extremely well. It’s easy to clean and sand and the most ideal for bent and formed parts. It finishes to the most exacting standards and specifications. It is virtually the perfect hardwood!
Tree of the
Week Theme: Spooky trees!
Happy Halloween! This concludes our series of spooky tree blog posts. In the following we have the scariest one by far, I hope you enjoy! This is just a snippet of the article, the rest will be in a link located at the bottom.
In New Jersey there is an oak tree well known for its dark history. It’s located in a secluded, undeveloped field in the Martinsfield section of Bernards Township in Somerset County, New Jersey. It stands tall and creepy alone with twisted branches resembling skeletal hands extending towards the sky. It was nicknamed “The Devil’s Tree” for a reason. The first curse put on this tree went way back to a farmer who murdered his family in cold blood. He then went out to the tree to hang himself. The stories surrounding this “devil tree” took off from there. Most stories consisted of various suicides and homicides. The area was also a headquarters for a sect of the Ku Klux Klan. It said that this malicious group performed lynchings amongst other types of murders using this tree. The Devil tree gained its rich legacy of evil over time. It is said that the oak hungrily absorbed the souls of those who died in the violence.
The Devil tree is filled with strange rumors and other bizarre happenings. It is said that that the tree emits an unnatural warmth. In winter, because of this unnatural heat, snow doesn't pile up on the tree or even around it. Nearby, there lies a rock that is said to also release the same kind of unnatural heat. This very rock is considered by some to be the actual gateway to Hell.
Some people have even reported to hear peculiar noises coming from the tree if they listen closely. The sounds consist of gruesome grunts, wailing, screaming and crying and even children laughing and playing. Sometimes there are booming sounds or a crackling noise said to come from somewhere deep inside the tree.
Strangely enough The Devil Tree has also been known to draw in lightning. Lighting is said to strike this tree with unnerving regularity without actually causing it any damage or any fires. Those who have touched the tree also sometimes speak of sudden bursts of static electricity, sometimes reportedly potent enough to knock a grown man off of his feet.
The Devil’s Tree of New Jersey has become so infamous that many attempts have been made over to cut down the massive oak. The trunk shows clear signs of scars of such efforts made to cut it down. Yet the tree remains resistant to such defilement and vandalism. Other marks on the tree include those not just made by people but of a large animal. The tree still stands to this day. In recent years, the tree has come under the protection of the township and although it is open to the public, a chain link fence and fencing around the trunk now serves to keep vandals out.
Tree of the
Week Theme: Spooky Trees!
The Peepal tree, also known as Ficus religiosa, is fast growing deciduous tree with heart shaped leaves. It is a medium size tree and has a large crown with wonderful, wide spreading branches. It shed its leaves in the months of March and April. The peepal tree is a kind of fig tree. The fig is a complex fruit, not unlike a pomegranate. The fig structure itself is present from the flowering stage on, it contains the flowers inside of it and is pollinated by a specific wasp that is able to go inside the fig to pollinate the flowers. The small individual fruits then forms inside the fig like little berries with single seeds inside them. The outside of the fig turns purple in color as the fruits ripen.The tree’s bark is light gray and peels in patches. They have very long life spans, living as long as hundreds of years. Peepal tree is known to grow throughout India. It is mainly grown in State of Haryana, Bihar, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. It is also found in the Ranthambore National Park in India. In the following, we included a tale from India about this haunted tree.
“In India there is also much talk of haunted trees. In the eastern Indian state of Orissa, in a village called Mangalajodi, there is a terrifying tree that no one will go near. The story behind this haunted tree starts with a rich merchant family from Bombay that travelled to the village on vacation, since the father had been born there. Although the son did not make the journey as he was living in America, the daughter of the family, a young woman studying fashion design in Bombay by the name of Ayesha, was fascinated by life in the quaint rural village. She spent all of her free time roaming about the village and its surrounding areas and one day came across a peepal tree which exuded a pleasant fragrance that hung invitingly in the air around it. Curious, Ayesha approached it and noticed a beautiful flower of a type that she had never seen before growing up in its branches, an odd finding considering that flowers were not known to grow in peepal trees. The woman climbed up, picked it, and headed home.
That evening, Ayesha developed a sudden high fever and became bedridden. On the same evening, after everyone had gone to bed, the worried parents were awoken by a loud scream from Ayesha’s room. When they rushed to see what had happened to their daughter they were horrified to find the young woman floating in the air above her bed. The family pulled her down to the bed, but some unseen force allegedly kept them from laying her down, as if it were forcibly holding her upright in a sitting position. Finally, whatever malevolent force had overcome the girl subsided and she slept. The next day she became even sicker and died, but not before ominously whispering that the tree intended to kill 21 people. A farmer coming to console the family later told them that he had seen the young woman picking the flower and had also witnessed a strange white shadow behind her but had been to frightened to do anything about it.
The rumor around the village was that Ayesha had been the victim of a witch who had once lived in the area by the name of Komila. It was said that this witch was fond of using black magic to steal the souls of young girls under the age of 21 in order to increase her power and prolong her life. Eventually word of her nefarious deeds got out and she was lynched and hung from the tree by angry villagers until she died, after which they buried her battered body under it. Legend said that the vengeful spirit of the witch still inhabited the tree she had been hung from and still sought out young women under 21 years of age; women just like Ayesha. The story gets weirder from there. Apparently the only way to evict the witch’s evil spirit from the tree was to find her body, dig it up, and burn it. Ayesha’s brother, Raj, apparently went to the village to do just this very thing, but when he was about to find the body he was seriously injured by a rain of thorns and rocks from above, accompanied by a screeching, disembodied voice that commanded him to leave and warned him to never again try to find the body lest he be killed.
Since then, the legend has not waned. It is said that the evil spirit still inhabits the tree to this day and is especially active at dusk, a time when people take long, circuitous routes to avoid it at all costs. Even in the daytime villagers refuse to go near it and it is said that anyone who touches the dreaded tree will die horribly, typically while coughing up blood. This became apparent when villagers tried to get rid of the evil once and for all by uprooting it. One 19 year-old local boy named Bhawani Behra, who was helping in the task of razing the tree, allegedly suddenly fell ill coughing up copious amounts of blood and died soon after. It is rumored that before dying he claimed that he had seen a ghostly white cat watching him from the tree’s spidery branches. It has been reported that the murderous tree is thought to have been responsible for at least 7 deaths to date, well on its way to the 21 dead prophesied by the dead Ayesha on her deathbed. Locals believe that although the tree was finally felled and only a trunk remains, the spirit lingers and that it will not stop its killing spree until it has taken its 21 souls, which has prompted the grip of terror it still holds on the village.” Even though the Peepal tree has a frightening past, many do not fear this tree-- in fact they are revered in the Hindu religion, thus the species name religiosa.
Tree of the
Week Theme: Spooky Trees!
For the next few weeks we’ll be getting into the Halloween spirit and writing about trees that strike fear in the heart of man. As a caution, these stories may be frightening or unpleasant for some readers, but they’re fascinating retellings of experiences people have had with the trees.
This weeks tree may be the deadliest tree in North America. The Manchineel tree, also known as Hippomane mancinella, is highly poisonous. Hippomane comes from two Greek words, hippo meaning “horse,” and mane, which is derived from mania and means “madness.” Theophrastus, an ancient Greek philosopher, gave the name Hippomane to a plant native to Greece after determining that horses became “crazy” after eating its’ fruit. Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, in turn classified this toxic tree in the same way.
It reaches a height of 40 feet. It has long-stalked, lustrous, leathery, elliptic yellow-green leaves. The leaves are simple, alternate, serrated and 2–4 inches long. Each leaf has a small gland where the leaf joins the stem. The bark is reddish-to-grayish brown and cracked. Flowers are yellow green color and discreet, but the spikes or leafless stems that the flowers emerge from are noticeable. Its attractive, sweet-scented, apple-like fruits have poisoned Spanish conquistadores, shipwrecked sailors, and present-day tourists. This poisonous tree is native to southern Florida, the Keys, many of the Caribbean islands, Mexico, and Central America.
Because all parts of the manchineel tree are extremely poisonous the tree has a foreboding nickname, The Tree of Death. Interaction with and ingestion of any part of this tree may be lethal. It produces a thick, milky sap that can ooze out of the leaves, twigs, bark, and fruit. The sap has been known to cause burn-like blisters when it comes in contact with the skin. People have reported heavy inflammation of the eyes and even temporary blindness from irritants carried in the smoke of this tree's burning wood. While some claim that they are immune to the noxious sap when it interacts with their skin, ingesting any part of this tree can be deadly and is not recommended.
People who have unwittingly tried to eat the fruit of this tree will suffer the consequences almost immediately. One traveler reports that one small bite of the apple nearly killed her. Within minutes the fruit had caused her mouth to suffer a burning sensation and caused her throat to swell up, nearly completely blocking her windpipe. Anything more than that small bite would have resulted in a painful death by suffocation while everything the fruit touched from your mouth to your stomach would feel like it was literally on fire.
Historic accounts tell of natives of what is now Central America resisting the invasion of spanish conquistadores. The natives knew the pain the tree could cause and would tie their prisoners to the trunk of a tree and leave them there. This in itself would be bad enough, tied to a tree end left to die, but the intent was much more malicious. When it rained the oils and sap of the tree would rain down onto the trapped conquistadores, drenching them, causing burning, blistering rashes all over their bodies.
The Tree of Death is not surrounded by mythology and legends like the next two trees we will be writing about, which are actually individual trees as opposed to an entire species of trees. The fear that the Manchineel tree inspires is based entirely on the very real consequences that every person who comes into contact with it will have to face.
Tree of the Week
The white ash (fraxinus americana) is a timber tree, most famous for its use in making baseball bats. The white ash is a striking tree, native to North America. It can be found in hardiness zones 4-9, putting Worcester near the northern edge of its range. It can be seen here along with its cousin, the Green Ash. The White Ash reaches a height of 50-80’ and a spread of 40-50’ at maturity. It grows at a medium rate, with height increases of 13-24” per year.
The White Ash shades many parks, large yards and other areas and provides gorgeous fall colors ranging from yellow to deep purple and maroon. It features compound leaves 8-15" in length with 5-9 dark green leaflets resembling the tip of a spear. The White Ash produces green to purple flowers that are not ornamental which typically bloom in April.
White Ash trees don’t form flowers until they develop their fruit seeds. Male and female blossoms usually appear on separate trees. Female flowers only bloom every several years. However when they are fertilized by wind they produce long necklaces of dangling seed fruits called ash keys.
Beyond its landscape value, the White Ash tree has been one of the most prized woods. The tree has made its mark as the wood used to make baseball bats, tool handles, oars and early planes. Major League Baseball has relied heavily on wood from White Ash trees for strength and flexibility. Native Americans used the wood to make spears and the bark to make canoes. White ash is the most valuable timber tree of the various ashes.
The White Ash also has medicinal properties. It has been used as a wash to treat skin sores, itches and pests on the scalp. The inner bark is a strong laxative. It is used as a tea to remove bile from the intestines, and to relieve stomach cramps and fevers. It is chewed and applied to sores. The leaves are used to soothe the itching caused by mosquito bites and bee stings.
Many considered the White Ash tree sacred. When young, it’s branches surge upwards giving itself a spiky look. It’s told in myths that the branches on the White Ash reach to the Gods. The trunk encompasses humanity while the roots plunge to the sources of both wisdom and evil.
In more recent history ash trees have come under attack by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive pest like the Asian Longhorned Beetle but its damage has been far more extensive. The first discovery of the Ash Borer in the U.S. was Michigan in 2002, it was found in Ontario at the same time. Since then this beetle has spread to more than half of the country. Unfortunately there is no hope of eradicating this pest as it can go years without detection establishing populations and moving on before symptoms of infestation become apparent. EAB has been discovered in Worcester; state and city foresters are working together to manage the damage. For more information about Emerald Ash Borer check out the website emeraldashborer.info.
In much of Michigan and neighboring states nearly all of the Ash trees have been killed by Emerald Ash borer but hope exists in the survivors. Like Chestnut trees, Elm trees, and others, the specimen that show resistance may become the ancestors of a new generation.
Tree of the
Week Theme: COLOR!
Dawn Redwood, also known as Metasequoia glyptostroboides, are aesthetically pleasing as well as impressive trees. They are apart of the Taxodiaceae (redwood) family. The genus name comes from the Greek word meta (meaning together or near) and Sequoia because of botanical similarities with the Giant Sequoia and Redwood. Dawn Redwoods are the only species in this Genus.
The dawn redwood is relatively carefree and also fast growing, usually to a height varying from 70-100’, but some even surpass 100’ and continue until they are 120’ or even higher! At maturity its’ spread is 25’ and has a pyramidal form. The dawn redwood can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–8 putting Worcester at the northern edge of its range.
The Dawn Redwood doesn’t require much maintenance but it does thrive in open spaces. It features fine and feathery leaves, which are bright green in color. The leaves are opposite in arrangement, and look like feathery evergreen needles, about 2 inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide. The bark is a reddish brown color when young but become darker when older. The Dawn Redwood produces cones that are about ¾–1¾" long in size. They shed their leaves and slender twigs annually.
The dawn redwood is a monoecious species, meaning the male and female reproductive organs are produced on the same tree. Like other conifers, the dawn redwood produces pollen and ovules inside separate male and female cones. Pollen is transferred to the female cones by wind, which initiates pollination. Small, winged seeds develop inside the cone, that split when ripe, and allow wind to disperse the seeds.
Like the Gingko tree, the Dawn Redwood is considered a living fossil. Some fossils of these trees date back to the time dinosaurs walked the Earth. Many presumed that the Dawn Redwood was extinct for 20 million years until it was found thriving in a rural mountain area of China. When dinosaurs roamed the earth, it is believed that trees in the Redwood family were very abundant. Today, only 9 genera and 15 species exist. Dawn redwood was one of those known only as a fossil until 1941, when it was discovered growing in a remote valley of the Szechwan province of China. Seeds were collected by the Arnold Arboretum in 1947, and since then the species has been distributed worldwide.
This tree isn’t only known for its’ ancient pedigree; it is also known for the brilliant colors it turns in the fall. The dawn redwood is a deciduous conifer and its’ leaves turn a beautiful yellow to golden russet color before falling from the tree exposing the papery, red strips of bark on the trunk throughout the winter. Trees with attractive bark or fruit that persists through the winter are said to have 4 seasons of interest and with the colorful bark, unique form, and beautiful foliage that turns color in the fall the Dawn Redwood certainly makes the mark.
Tree of the
Week Theme: COLOR!
The maidenhair tree, commonly known as the Ginkgo (biloba) is “undoubtedly one of the most distinct and beautiful of all deciduous trees.” The word ginkgo comes from the Chinese yin-kuo meaning 'silvery nut'. This species is within the Ginkgoaceae family, hence where the name “ginkgo” came from. The average height varies from 25-50’ with a spread of 25-35’ at maturity. They grow fairly slowly but can live as long as 3,000 years. The Ginkgo can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3-8, which means perfect growth conditions for Worcester!
The ginkgo certainly stands out. Its leaves are distinct and fan shaped. They turn a bright golden yellow color in the fall. The stems of leaves on deciduous trees are known as petioles. Before leaves drop in the fall, these petioles produce a protective layer of cells that work like a scar to protect trees from diseases entering the exposed tissue. The petioles of the Ginkgo leaves form the protective layer and wait for the colder weather to drop its leaves simultaneously.
It’s bark is grey, furrowed, and corky. Each tree has panicles of either male or female flowers. Male flowers reach a length up to 8 cm long; female flowers are smaller in length and are up to 4 cm long. Fruits from this tree mature during the fall. Its crown shape resembles a pyramid.
Ginkgo trees are especially perfect for urban cities because of their ability to tolerate many urban conditions including heat, air pollution, salt and confined spaces and it establishes easily. The Ginkgo tree is not susceptible to diseases or pests. They are popular city trees and can be found along commercial and residential areas as well as parks and plazas. Many consider the Ginkgo a beautiful shade trees.
The seeds and leaves have been (and are still today) used in medicine throughout the world. Ginkgo's are grown as hedges in China to supply the leaves for western herbal medicine. The leaves contain ginkgolides, which are used to improve blood circulation to the brain and to relieve Alzheimer’s disease, tinnitus and Raynaud's Syndrome. It is one of Europe’s most best selling herbal medication.
The Ginkgo tree is a living fossil because it is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to beyond the time of the dinosaurs. There are even leaf fossils with the earliest date from 270 million years ago. The Ginkgo tree had a family of other fan-leaved species until the glaciers wiped them out. Scientists believe, judging by the fossil record, the species has not changed in 50 million years. They were rediscovered in 1691 in China and was brought to the United states in the late 1700's.
The Ginkgo is a dioecious species, meaning that it’s male catkin and stubby female flowers appear on separate trees. Only female flowers will produce fruit if they are fertilized. The fruit that is produced is oval-like, orange in color, and has a terrible stench if allowed to fall to the ground and decompose. Most nurseries stock male ginkgo trees specifically but if you’re not sure you will have to wait until the tree turns 20 when it will be sexually mature.
Tree of the
Week Theme: HARVEST!
We are all certainly familiar with the Granny Smith Apple (Malus domestica ‘Granny Smith’), it’s one of my personal favorites. This tart and tasty variety was first grown in Eastwood, Australia, a suburb of Sydney, in 1868. Apples are members of the rose family (Rosaceae). It got its interesting name after the first grower of the apples, Maria Ann “Granny” Smith, who had migrated from Sussex, England to New South Wales, Australia. Maria Smith discovered Granny Smith apples growing near a creek on her farm after she had removed some French crab apples, that originated in Tasmania, from the spot. Granny Smiths are believed to be a hybrid of these French crab apples.
You may not know that when you take the seeds of an apple from a tree like the granny smith those seeds don't produce a tree that has the same kind of fruit as its mother tree. The reason for this is the same as the reason children aren’t clones of their parents; they’re a combination of both parents DNA. By sheer luck the Granny Smith grew from the seeds of the French Crab apple and whatever partner happened to pollinate it. And in the same way the seeds of Granny Smiths will produce a different type of apple from their mother, thus all Granny Smiths grown today are grown from cuttings of other Granny Smith apple trees all starting with the original tree on Maria Ann Smith’s farm
The New South Wales Government started growing these apples in 1895, and began promoting them as a good export apple due to their ability to be stored for long periods. Granny Smiths were a major Australian export after World War 1, eventually becoming one of the most popular apples grown in Australia, and are now grown around the world including New Zealand, Europe, South America and the United States.
The Granny Smith Apple tree reach a height and spread of about 15 to 25 feet. The crown shape is round and the leaves are pointy and dark green in color.The USDA categorizes this tree's hardiness zone as 6-8. They can be found in worcester, I actually have one in my backyard! The Granny Smith Apple tree tends to be a strong-limbed, able to manage limbs laden with its delicious fruit without the need for additional supports. It can be long-lived under optimal conditions and is quite heat tolerant. Even the apples are durable, lasting up to six months with refrigeration.
The Granny Smith Apple trees bear fruit without a pollinator partner. However, for higher rates of fruit production, plant another variety for cross-pollination. It is important to select a pollinator that blooms at the same time as the Granny Smith. Fuji, Gala and Jonathan are good examples of pollinators for this tree.
Fun fact! Granny Smith apples can help brighten your teeth. Even though they are not a substitute for toothpaste, the acid in apples actually helps clean and brighten teeth. The crunchy inside also acts like a mini toothbrush that can scrub away stains.
Granny Smith apples go from being completely green to turning yellow when overripe and are available year round. They are well known as one of the best apple varieties for both cooking (as they do not change their natural shape once cooked due to their high acid content) and snacking right off the tree. Granny Smith apple’s high acid content means that they won’t go brown as quickly once cut, so they’re especially valued for fruit trays and salads. Granny Smith apples are also high in vitamins and antioxidants, but not calories!
FUN APPLE JACK TREATS!
There are so many ways you can add granny smith apples into your meals. Luckily I found a recipe combining two of my favorite things; granny smith apples and apple jacks!