Old Colorado Apples

OLD COLORADO APPLES

MORP is researching old Colorado apples and creating an Old Colorado Apples list. By searching historical books, reports and records, we have so far documented 436 varieties of apples that were once grown in Colorado. Some of the apples on this list we see still growing in our landscape on trees up to 100 years old or older. Others, nearly 50% of the list, are now considered lost/extinct. But we will keep looking for them.
A few details from the list of Old Colorado Apples:

State-Wide Context:

  • 64 varieties, 15%, are Common—10 or more mail order sources carry them; these varieties are NOT commonly found in nurseries, but can be found with specialty nurseries and collectors.
  • 55 varieties, 13%, are Rare—4 to 9 mail order sources carry them
    108 varieties, 25%, are Endangered—1 to 3 mail order sources; we work to get our hands on these apples and increase their numbers before they end up on the lost list
  • 205 varieties or 47% are Lost—considered Extinct; MORP has rediscovered two lost varieties – the Colorado Orange and the Cedar Hill Black apples

This great diversity disappeared not because these varieties did not grow well here; rather because many were simply not shiny red apples representing the standard of the time. We work to return as many of these varieties as we can to Colorado orchards. To be successful, we will need you to plant diversity in YOUR orchards— as was tradition a century ago.

Montezuma County Context:

Approximately 32 varieties of apples have been identified (or tentatively identified) thus far by MORP in Montezuma County orchards planted pre 1922. When compared to the number of varieties documented here in our SW district on the 1922 Sandsten survey, we find that 65% of that diversity is still found in our area’s oldest orchards! Yet, this diversity is hanging on a limb, so to speak, and preserving it before it is gone is what MORP works to do.

Documenting the diversity lost, is another form of preservation, even if less rewarding. When compared to the 436 some varieties of apples that were introduced to the State of Colorado by 1922, Montezuma County of today represents an estimate of 7% of that total state-wide diversity. From our observations we predict this is a much higher number than elsewhere in the state; yet a representation of the devastating loss of diversity that occurred in Colorado and across the country over the last century.

Please be patient as we graft and build our inventory of Colorado heritage apples. Our  tree sales offer a limited selection of these heritage trees; including other endangered and rare apple varieties, some prized for cider.