Gnarled tree’s sur­vival amazes hor­ti­cul­tur­ists

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS - By JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

An an­cient ap­ple tree firmly rooted in the cor­ner of a Cen­tral Otago ceme­tery has hor­ti­cul­tur­ists puz­zled and ex­cited.

Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Wayne King was at Grave­yard Gully, in Alexan­dra, last week tak­ing grafts of the ap­ple tree to not only en­able it to grow in per­pe­tu­ity, but to iden­tify the ap­ple.

‘‘It is ex­tremely un­usual for a tree as old as this and grow­ing in what I con­sider to be to­tally in­hos­pitable to sur­vive. It’s ter­ri­ble. Even rab­bits bring a cut lunch when they come here.

‘‘It puz­zles me . . . it is my 51st year in hor­ti­cul­ture and I have never seen any­thing like it be­fore. It’s had sci­en­tific ne­glect for the last 80 years and sur­vived. It’s amaz­ing.’’

There were many fas­ci­nat­ing fea­tures about the craggy tree, whose branches have folded over the pas­sage of time – to the ex­tent they had poured off seeds and sprouted an­other tree nearby.

‘‘It seems re­sis­tant to a lot of dis­ease which I think is quite fas­ci­nat­ing. Maybe it’s got a gene in it that’s keep­ing it safe. Nor­mally you would ex­pect an ap­ple tree in this area to be full of codling moth. This has never been sprayed or ever seen in­sec­ti­cide.’’

As to how the tree got there, some­one had to have ‘‘dropped a bag of ap­ples’’ or de­lib­er­ately planted a tree, he said. ‘‘If it was a pip – they never throw true and you end up with things that don’t match.

‘‘De­spite its age and size, it puts out good-size fruit . . . the ap­ple has not got solid colour – it’s stripy and al­most 100 per cent fleck which is amaz­ing. Most ap­ples this old never had this much colour.’’

There were 350 dif­fer­ent ap­ple va­ri­eties, and he planned to seek help from food and plant con­tacts in Hamil­ton to help in his quest to iden­tify the ap­ple, he said. ‘‘It is an in­ter­est­ing project.’’ Vin­cent Com­mu­nity chair­per­son and Cen­tral Otago REAP Sus­tain­able Liv­ing Pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor Clair Hig­gin­son said the tree also had strong her­itage value.

Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity had fought to save the tree, which was threat­ened with be­ing cut down be­cause it was dam­ag­ing a nearby stone fence.

Photo: JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN 629476663

Sweet mys­tery: Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Wayne King and for­mer or­chardist Al­lan John­ston fought to save the his­toric tree and are ea­ger to iden­tify the ap­ple pro­duced by the an­cient tree at the Grave­yard Gully Ceme­tery, in Alexan­dra.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.