About 80 million years ago an early form of rose (a short, thorny plant with small, white, five-petaled flowers) was one of the earliest flowering plants to develop on earth. After many years several fruits evolved from this early rose. Apples, pears, plums, quinces, peaches, cherries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries all belong to the Rose (Rosaceae) plant family. The apple was the result of the cross-pollination of an ancient plum and a plant we call meadowsweet, in the genus Spiraea.
Using DNA technology the origin of the apples we eat today matches a small population of a single species still growing at the border of northeast China and the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. This isolated species evolved over the past 4.5 million years to become larger and sweeter, and was carried into the Western World by travelers on the ancient “silk roads.”
The crabapple is the only apple native to North America. The pilgrims planted the first United States edible apple orchard in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600’s.
Today Apples are grown in all 50 states. The top apple producing states are Michigan, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
Some birds that use apple trees and crabapple trees for their fruit, flowers, or sap are:
American Robin, Blue Jay, Northern Bobwhite, Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwing, American Crow, Common Grackle, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern bluebird, Eastern Towhee, European Starling, grosbeaks, Gray catbird, Hairy woodpecker, House Finch, Northern Mockingbird, orioles, Purple Finch, Red-bellied woodpecker, Red-headed woodpecker, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and Tufted Titmouse.