Our identification service
If you have apples that you would like MAN to identify for you, particularly if you live in or near the Welsh Marches region or think the varieties come from this region, you can do this in person at one of the Shows we attend this being our preferred option, (see Events) or by contacting the secretary if you live further afield.
We ask that you provide a minimum of three to six mature specimens which cover typical shape, size and colour; it would help if this also show examples of variability in typical characteristics. We recommend that King fruit are not included; these are the apples that form at the centre of the truss, they mature earliest, are usually the largest, frequently have a thicker and shorter stalk than usual and sometimes a flesh protuberance by it. Leaves may sometimes be useful, but don’t worry if you don’t collect them. With each variety submitted we ask that you enclose your name and details about the apples on the form so that we keep track of submissions. It is best to pick the apples and send them only a little before they are ripe, and certainly not if they show any sign of decay. We do not usually identify cider apples.
Please note we do not usually identify cider apples, this being a specialism that is not our strength.
We ask for your opinion whether the apple is best used as eater or cooker and when the apples become ripe, and when it is best for use. This does help us narrow down what are the possibilities. Also it helps to know if the tree is about 20, 50, 100 years old (trunk diameter is a bit of a surrogate measure for standard trees, with trees under 150mm (6”) diameter likely being no more than 20 years). Varieties such as Saturn and Scrumptious won’t be growing on a 50 year old tree, nor will Braeburn, Crispin or Gala on a 100 year-old tree.
If there is any other useful information that you can provide, such as: factors relating to the site, tree growth, whether the tree comes into blossom very early or late compared with most varieties, keeping quality of fruit etc. these may also help us develop a consistent identification. Sometimes it can be useful to know what other apple varieties were planted as they all may have been sourced from a local nursery or to make a collection with a specific theme.
Enquiries regarding identification should be via the secretary (see contacts)
How we do it
Identification of what variety a given apple is has traditionally been by morphological description: visual inspection of the exterior and interior characteristics and supplemented with tasting it, assessing texture, and, for cookers, sometimes how it cooks.
An identifier begins, consciously or unconsciously, by assessing the dominant size, shape and skin colouring of the apple samples. Together with the approximate time at which fruit become ripe, we can then place the sample among a much more limited number of possible varieties, perhaps we have reduced the number of possibilities from many hundreds to perhaps a few dozen. This has been systematised and several of the books mentioned below have tables.
More thorough observation then enables the identifier to eliminate many of these possibilities.
They’ll be looking at:
- Skin colour and markings
- Core Line
- and possibly the leaves
With only a few varieties remaining the identifier will likely compare with great care the samples against descriptions, photographs, paintings, cross sections before coming to an opinion.
Often the process is straightforward and we can express and opinion within a few minutes. This is how we can identify up to 50-80 varieties in one day at a Show; then we often waive our charge. Wherever there is doubt, or many samples are submitted, or if the fruit looks unusual, we prefer taking it to our identification panel workshops held at the Harp Inn, Glasbury-on-Wye most Thursdays 10:30-15:00 in October and early November. During these workshops we have a group of 6-10 experts who can call upon the standard books, illustrations in prints, photographs of the National Fruit Collection and many taken during the last 10-15 years in our own orchards. Even then we cannot always be sure.
This goes a long way towards explaining why identification requires acquisition of experience over many years.
Each year we identify devote a lot of effort in supporting the public by making identifications; between about 200 and 600 varieties, more in drier sunnier years, less in wet cool years.
Sometimes fruit submitted from an old tree looks interesting but is rather “scruffy”. It may no longer be typical. We may ask for scions with which to make grafts enabling us to grow the apple tree. In another 3-5 years fruit will come, usually larger and cleaner. With these we can then try identification again. It’s a slow process. That’s how in 2018 the Accreditation Panel of Local Cultivars agreed to the authentication of Gipsy King, a variety first brought to our attention by Tom Adams in Church Stretton back in 2004.
Some varieties are derived from others, and look quite similar, such as Newton Wonder and Blenheim Orange, or varieties such as Laxton’s Early Crimson, Discovery, Tydeman’s Eary Worcester and Katy, all of which are progeny of Worcester Pearmain. Seeing common traits can assist an identifier homing in more quickly. Bannier has given a fascinating account of the “incestuousness” in modern apple varieties in “ANCESTRY OF 500 MODERN APPLE VARIETIES”, Pomologen-Verein, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany http://www.suttonelms.org.uk/apple-vitality.html
Other identification services
Brogdale Horticultural Trust
Brogdale Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 8XZ
£20 per sample
Perry pear identification
Jim Chapman now offers a unique identification service (small fee) at Hartpury Perry Pear Orchard Centre http://www.nationalperrypearcentre.org.uk/
for details see Gloucestershire Orchard Trust website https://gloucestershireorchardtrust.org.uk/varieties/identification/
Now DNA SSR analysis is becoming (relatively) inexpensive, it will become a useful additional tool to morphological description. At minimum it will confirm whether or not the DNA of that variety has already been encountered and if so most likely the name(s) by which it has been accessed. East Malling Research offer this analysis service (http://www.emr.ac.uk/commercial-services/dna-testing/).
Books for apple and pear identification
There are many books that help an enthusiast identify which variety an apple is. A few of the popular books ones are listed under books. Here we just give Author and Title; details can be found in our book section.
Thomas Arthur Knight – Pomona Herefordiensis
Robert Hogg – Fruit Manual
Robert Hogg and Henry Graves Bull – Herefordshire Pomona
George Bunyard – “A Hand Book of Hardy Fruits Vol 1: Apples and Pears“
H.V. Taylor – The Apples of England
Muriel W. G. Smith – National Apple Register of the United Kingdom
John Bultitude – “Apples: A Guide to the Identification of International Varieties”
Joan Morgan – Book of Apples
Rosie Sanders – The Apple Book
Martin Crawford – Directory of Apple Cultivars
Welsh Marches Pomona – Michael Porter
Charles Martell – Native Apples of Gloucestershire
Michael Clark – Apples: A Field Guide
Jim Arbury – Pears
Joan Morgan – Book of Pears
Web-based database resources for apple identification
National Fruit Collection http://www.nationalfruitcollection.org.uk/index.php at Bogdale in Kent contains over 2200 apple varieties. It is curated and maintained by the University of Reading in collaboration with the Farm Advisory Services Team. In its catalogue there are over 3500 accessions containing standard descriptions and photographs of typical fruit exteriors and interiors. It can be searched at http://www.nationalfruitcollection.org.uk/search.php
While it is a very comprehensive data source, the search tool does no readily encompass the substantial variation in morphological characteristics which itself can be one of the important characteristics. In addition, the standard photographs showing six aspects/sections tend to have colour bias towards the maroon.
We find the database most valuable during identification after we have reduced possibilities to just a few varieties. Then we can compare our samples with these possibilities.
Garden Apple I.D. http://www.gardenappleid.co.uk/ has been developed from the Isle of Wight. It is web-based and describes 184 varieties of many well-loved UK varieties. There are compact and informative historical notes, description, photographs.
Fruit Group at fruitID.com is a web-based method for searching an already extensive database in a manner structured along the lines of Bultitude, though with multiple “fuzzy” selections possible it enables the variations in characteristics of apples to be captured too. It is being created by an informal network of enthusiasts in the East of England willing to share expertise freely for all those interested in identifying or researching both heritage and modern apple cultivars.
Samples of fruit from trees of known provenance have been photographed and characterised and combined with information on cultivation and heritage from the literature and personal knowledge. This undertaking is progressing with the accession of 780 cultivars to date, including at least a basic image sets on 630 of these. Included in the database are 354 varieties of apple; also minimum information has been recently added about the NFC, Gloucestershire Orchard Trust and MAN collections to include a total of 2402 varieties.
FruitID had its genesis in the East of England and already includes their local apple cultivars. Interest has already been received from individuals and orchard groups in several parts of UK and in Eire who would like their cultivars to be included and the system is now sufficiently mature for this to be practicable. MAN and other fruit groups will be adding their collections when volunteers are available to assist.
As this database expands to include more varieties it is likely to become a useful tool for supporting identification, including at Shows.
Web based lists of apple cultivars
Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apple_cultivars lists 271 North American and European varieties, with about half having photographs.
Orange Pippin http://www.orangepippin.com/ is the result of a transatlantic partnership by apple enthusiasts. It now covers over 600 varieties giving for each the origin, a description, and photographs (including National Fruit Collection) as well as personal comments from the public. A forum allows interested folk to pose and receive answers.
There is also a register of owners of varieties of apple trees who may be contacted.
In addition there are over forty orchards listed in the UK that may be visited. However there are none in Wales and few in the West Midlands.
Welsh Mountain Cider http://welshmountaincider.com/ have a nursery near Llandeilo at about 300 m elevation. They list over 400 varieties of apples and perry pears.
US Department of Agriculture has made chemical analysis of 175 varieties of apple juices http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/7332/PDF as part of quality and authentication control base work. Though interesting, this is likely not a route for supporting identification work.