Apple family trail

Did you know that apples and roses are related?

Apples and roses belong to the same plant family – Rosaceae. Looking at flower structures can give excellent clues about relatedness. The outer part of both a rose flower and apple blossom is made of 5 sepals, and inside these are 5 petals, which usually overlap. The stamens also occur in multiples of 5.

As well as roses and apples, many other economically important plants are found within the Rosaceae family. These include familiar fruits such as apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears, raspberries, and strawberries. Other well-known members of this family are hawthorn, rowan, spiraea, potentilla, cotoneaster and pyracantha.
The small, sour crab apple (Malus sylvestris) is thought to be native to Britain.

Prior to the introduction of the sweeter, larger domestic apple, crab apples were probably used widely, and made into cider to drink.

Domestic apples (Malus domestica) originated in the Middle East, in forests stretching from the edge of the Gobi Desert to the Uzbek mountains. It is thought that the Romans first brought the fruit to Britain, and they grew it as a cultivated crop.

Later, specially cultivated apple varieties spread across Europe, possibly arriving in England at around the time of the Norman Conquest (1066). Just like humans, apples don't produce offspring of identical type. So to ensure that apple varieties keep their desired characteristics, commercial apple trees are propagated by grafting a cutting from an existing tree onto rootstock of a wild species. Grafting techniques have been used for thousands of years.