Heritage orchardists identify and propagate rare apple trees

The Colorado Orange isn’t an orange at all…it’s a remarkable type of apple, a late-ripening golden yellow fruit with a reddish blush and a hint of citrus flavor. And if it weren’t for the efforts of orchardists like Jude and Addie Schuenemeyer, the Colorado Orange and other rare apple varieties might have been lost forever.

The Colorado Orange tree originated in the historic Fremont County orchard planted in the 1860s by Jesse Frazier, the first successful apple grower in the Colorado Territory. The Colorado Orange, nearly forgotten today, was popular and well-known in its heyday. It was featured in catalogs and even sent along in boxes of the state’s finest apples to President Teddy Roosevelt in 1905. And in 2018, there was only one known Colorado Orange tree left.

Jude Schuenemeyer says that the Colorado Orange is not the only endangered strain of apple in the state with an interesting story. He and his wife have found many “unique unknowns,” varieties with just one or two trees left that they send to a lab for DNA testing. The Schuenemeyers co-direct the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP), and they are rescuing these rare trees in a cluster of heritage orchards in their care in Montezuma County. “Our mission is to work to preserve Colorado’s fruit growing heritage,” said Jude Schuenemeyer. Read full story at San Juan Skyway Visitor Guide…

By Deb Dion | March 9, 2021

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