Index | Search | Home

new crop logo

Malus sylvestris Mill.


Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Toxicity
  5. Description
  6. Germplasm
  7. Distribution
  8. Ecology
  9. Cultivation
  10. Harvesting
  11. Yields and Economics
  12. Energy
  13. Biotic Factors
  14. References


Apples are most valued as a fresh desert fruit, and may be made into jams, jellies, wines, ciders, vinegars, fresh juice, applesauces, apple butter, brandies, pies and cakes. They may also be baked, fried, stewed, spiced, candied, or used in mincemeat or chutney. The hard wood is used for turnery, canes and pipes. Apples are a good detergent food for cleaning teeth. The oil from the seeds is used for cooking and illumination.

Folk Medicine

Regarded as apertif, bactericide, carminative, cyanogenetic, depuretives, digestive, diuretic, emollient, hypnotic, laxative, POISON, refrigerant, sedative, and tonic. Apple is said to be a folk remedy for bilious ailments, cacoethes, cancer, catarrh, diabetes, dysentery, fever, flux, heart, malaria, pertussis, scurvy, spasm, thirst, and warts. (Duke and Wain, 1981) In Europe scraped apple has been used extensively to treat infant intestinal disorders, such as diarrhea, dysentery, and dyspepsia. Root and bark are considered anthelmintic, hypnotic, and refrigerant, and a bark infusion is given Indians suffering from bilious ailments, intermittent and remittent fevers. Apple leaves contain an antibacterial substance called phloretin, which is active in doses as low as 30 ppm. Fruit eaten to obviate constipation.


Per 100 g, the fruit is reported to contain 58 calories, 84.4 g H2O, 0.2 g protein, 0.6 g fat, 14.5 g total carbohydrate, 1.0 g fiber, 0.3 g ash, 7 mg Ca, 10 mg P, 0.3 mg Fe, 1 mg Na, 1.0 mg K, 54 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.03 mg thiamine, 0.04 mg riboflavin, 0.02 mg niacin, and 10 mg ascorbic acid. From seeds can be extracted HCN and a bright-yellow semi-drying oil with odor of bitter almonds; they also contain amygdalin and the glucoside phlorizin (up to 8%). May contain up to 17% pectin, pectic acid, tannins, wax, traces of essential oil, quercetin, isoquercitrin, ursolic-, oleanolic-, and pomolic-acid C30H48O4, pomonic acid, a-farnesens, shikimic acid, leucocyanadin, cyanidin-3-galactoside, epicatechin, catechin, chlorogenic acid, quercetin 3-glucoside, quercetin 3-rhamnoglucoside, p-coumaric acid (List and Horhammer, 1969-1979).


One man, who apparently relished apple seeds, ingested a cupful and died of cyanide poisoning (Perkins and Payne). Because of the unfortunate notoriety for cyanide poisoning in the US in 1983, I repeat here the symptoms of cyanide poisoning. Lethal amounts may cause spasms and death due to respiratory failure within an hour. Smaller amounts cause stimulated respiration, changing to weak and irregular, grasping, excitement then depression, weakness, staggering, pupil dilation with glassy prominent eyes, convulsions, spasms, twitching, and coma. TO THE PHYSICIAN: Glucose, potassium, permanganate, hydrogen peroxide, sodium thiosulfate, sodium nitrite, nerve stimulation, and respiratroy support, properly administered, have been beneficial. An apple a day, keeps the doctor away, Or at least that's what some people say. But one man we read, ate a cupful of seed, And this man he died, overdosed cyanide. His doctor's away, since that day, so they say. (Duke, 1984b)


Low round-crowned tree, up to 15 m tall; stems more or less thorny, tomentose or heavily pubescent when young; leaves clustered on pubescent spur branches, ovate, elliptical or suborticular, crenate or serrate, cordate or rounded at base, 3–15 cm long, 2.5–5.5 cm wide, shortly apiculate; flower on spurs in clusters along the fruiting section of the branch, white or pink, 3–4 cm in diameter; sepals 3–7 mm long, glabrous outside, tomentose on inside; styles glabrous or sparsely villous at base; fruits variable as to size, color and shape, depending on the variety, with subglabrous skin, wide edible fleshy portion, and a core of 5 carpels, each containing one or more seeds; seeds brown, obovoid. Fl. spring, shortly after leaves appear; fr. various through summer and fall.


More than 7,000 cvs of apples have been named, but actually only 17 clonal varieties, each with a production of more than one million bushels annually, make up 91% of total production in the United States. More 'Delicious' are produced than any other variety; 'McIntosh' is second and together they make up one-third of the total. Some cvs bear good crops annually, whereas others bear good every other year. Some good summer varieties are: 'Gravenstein', 'Lodi', 'Astrachan or Red Delicious', 'McIntosh', 'Newtown' (Yellow Newtown, Albermarle, Pippin), 'Northern', 'York Imperial'. Other mild winter varieties are: 'White Pearmain', 'Winter Banana', 'Beverly Hills', 'Emilia', 'Transcendant', 'Yellow Siberian', 'Early Harvest', 'Hyslop', 'Wolf River', and 'Hume'. Reported from the Eurosiberian and China-Japan Centers of Diversity, apple and cvs thereof is reported to tolerate bacteria, disease, frost, hydrogen flouride, high pH, insects, low pH, salt, slope, SO2, and viruses. (2n = 34)


Apples still occur wild in Near East, but they have been long cultivated in temperate regions of the Old and New World. Present apples are hybrids probably derived from Malus sylvestris, M. dasyphylla Borkh., M. praecox Borkh., and other Asiatic species.


Apples are hardy as far north as 65°N Latitude, and do not tolerate the tropics. However, they will grow at 2,300 m in Guatemala, and 3,000 m in Ecuador. Where winters are not cold enough, blossoming and fruiting are erratic at best. Where winter temperatures are mostly above 1°C, trees do very poorly. Requires a winter dormant period of 900–1,000 hours below 7°C. Without sufficient cold, leaf buds do not open; flower buds do not need as much cold. If they open and leaf buds do not, fruit fails to set. Annual rainfall of 60–75 cm is optimal, but apples will tolerate drier or wetter climates. Requires a soil well-drained and aerated, and moderately textured, not too heavy or too light. During summer months, mature apple orchards use about 4 acre-inches of water per month. To apply one inch of water to an acre requires 27,000 gals. of water. Heavy rains or hail damage the fruits. Frost during flowering can be very destructive. Snow overburdens and often breaks trees. Sites for orchards should be sufficiently elevated to allow cold air to settle below rather than in the orchard. Sites above large bodies of water are particularly good. Ridge tops are not satisfactory because exposure to heavy winds can cause damage to trees and fruits. Ranging from Boreal Moist to Boreal Wet through Tropical Dry Forest Life Zones, apple is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3 to 16 dm (mean of 45 cases = 9.1) annual temperature of 5.7 to 24.2°C (mean of 45 cases = 11.7) and pH of 4.5 to 8.2 (mean of 35 cases = 6.1).


Apples are usually propagated by budding or grafting suitable types on selected rootstocks. Vegetatively propagated rootstocks are used instead of seedling rootstocks. Stooling or layering produces suitable rootstocks. In India, budding is best between April and September, when the sap is active in scion and stocks. In northern temperate regions, trees are planted in spring in colder areas, and either in spring or fall in warmer areas. The point of union between rootstock and variety should be above ground. Preferably 1-year old grafted plants are planted during the dormant period 4–10 m apart each way, depending on whether the variety is dwarfted or not. Dwarf trees are more efficient, taking less space, being easier to prune and spray, and fruit being more exposed to light, hence of better color. However, present standard dwarf stocks do not stand extreme cold, are easily blown over by high winds and therefore must be well-braced, and need more intensive horticultural practices than regular trees. Rootstocks usually used are 'Malling' or 'Malling Merton'. Spur-type trees are smaller than standard trees because of the growth habit of the scion that is budded or grafted to the rootstock; they are highly productive. Apples may be grown rainfed or irrigated. Mulching and occasional manuring are recommended. Branches of mature trees should be pruned yearly and congested branches thinned out, coating wounds with antiseptic. Regular spraying should be practiced.


Trees start bearing 4–6 years after planting and bear fully at 12–18 years, depending on the variety; dwarf and spur types bear somewhat earlier. Economic production may last for 6 to 60 years. Bloom to harvest of fruit is 70–170 days. Most apples are hand-picked, into canvas bag or bucket. Pickers may use ladders or hydraulic lifts, or other mechanical aids. For dwarf trees 4 m ladders are sufficient. Apples are put into standard field boxes (holding 1 bu) or field bulk bins (holding 15–24 bu, 20 bu weight about one-half ton). These are moved from orchard by trucks, using fork-lifts to handle the bins. Apples should be harvested at the proper stage of maturity as determined by various tests, the one used commercially being a pressure tester which rates the fruit as hard, firm, firm-ripe, or ripe. Appearance and color of skin may also be used. Fruits may be placed in refrigerated storage immediately, and then brought out as needed and packed to order; or they may be taken from orchard to packing-house, where they are packed in various sized containers and refrigerated until marketed. Best storage temperature for most varieties is -1°C to 0°C, at 80–90% relative humidity. However, each variety has its own requirements. Apples may be stored from 2–8 months depending on the variety.

Yields and Economics

Mature trees may produce up to 50 bu of apples annually. Yields in India range from 11 to 80 kg/tree and may attain nearly 600 kg/ha. Pimentel (1980) reports yields of 40 to 80 MT/ha. Yields vary widely as to cv, productivity in any one season, cultural practices and climatic condition. Apple is principal fruit of temperate zone. Commercial production in United States is carried on in 35 States, although 6 of them produce 69% of the total, these being Washington, New York, Michigan, Virginia, California, and Pennsylvania. Annual crop averages 140.3 million bushels, valued at about $800 million. Other estimates are 3 million tons of apples are produced in the United States annually. In 1965 United States ranked 5th after Italy, Argentina, Netherlands and Australia in the world's apple trade.


Apple wastes are estimated at only 10% of production in England. Orchards, however, produce both prunings and grubbings. Orchards may be made more productive from an energy point of view by interplanting herbaceous crops (Palz and Chartier, 1980). Bohan (1981) relates how one man in Colorado built his own still for $350 using scrap metal. After rustling up 6000 gallons of spoiled apple cider, he fermented some apple wine (10% alcohol) and also large quantities of 165 proof alcohol for his 1972 Peugeot. Now, 4000 miles later, he says that whenever and wherever he drives, the unmistakable aroma of apple orchard keeps pedestrians sniffing and turning their heads in his wake. In Australia, Stewart et al. (1979) estimated that apples would yield 67 liters ethanol/MT at a cost of $2.86/liter, all this when grain alcohol was closer to $0.20/liter and gasoline $0.15/liter.

Biotic Factors

Apples are not dependably self-fertile, so provisions for cross-pollination should be made. Bees and other insects are agents. Honeybees bring about 90% of pollen transfer in the orchard. One colony of bees of medium size (15,000–20,000 bees) per acre is sufficient. Mice are very destructive to apple trees. Keep a 1 m in diameter space around tree free of weeds or mulched. Rabbits also eat bark. Protect with wire screen. Apple trees are attacked by a great many fungi, perhaps 150 world-wide, and many are very serious, but can be controlled by various sprays. Aomong them are the following: Actinopetle dryina, Alternaria mali, A. tenuis, Armillaria mellea. Ascochyta mali, Aspergillus terreus, Botryodiplodia theobromae, Botryosphaeria ribis, Botrytis cinerea, B. mali, Cephalosporium carpogenus, C. roseum, Cephaothecium roseum, Cepholeuros virescens, Cercospora mali, C. pyri, Cicinnobolus cesatii, Cladosporium herbarum, Clasterosporium carpophilum, Clitocybe tabescens, Colletotrichum fructus, Coniocybe nivea, Coniophora cerebella, Coniothecium chomatosporum, Coniothyrum fuckelii, C. olivaceum, C. pirinum, Corticium centrifugum, C. galactinum, C. laetum, C. litschaueri, C. salmonicolor, Coryneum foliicola, C. longistipitatum, Creonectria purpurea, Cylindrocarpon angustum, C. mali, Cylindrocladium scoparium, Cyphella albo-violascens, C. marginata, Cytoplea cinerea, Cytospora carphosperma, C. leucostoma. C. mali, Cytosporina ludibunda, Daedalea confragosa, Daldinia Concentrica, Dematophora necatrix, Dermatea corticola, Didymella voglinoi, Didymosphaeria microstictica, Diaporthe pernicosa, Diplodia griffoni, D. mutila, D. natalensis, Elsinoe pyri, Endomyces mali, Entomosporium maculatum, Epicoccum granulatum, Eutypella stellulata, Fabraea maculata, Fomes applanatus, F. fomentarius, F. annosus, F. pinicola, F. pomaceus, Fracciaea heterogenea, Fumago vagans, Fusarium acuminatum. F. avenaceum, F. culmorum, F. dimerum, F. equiseti, F. fructigenum, F. herbarum. F. lateritium, F. moniliforme, F. poae, F. scirpi, F. solani, F. vasinifectum, Fusicladium dendriticum, Ganoderma curtisii, Gibberella baccata, G. fujikuroi, Gliocladium viride, Gloeosporium album, G. frustigenum, G. perennans, Gleodes pomigena, Gymnosporangtum juniperinum, G. sabinae, G. tremelloides, G. clavipes, G. globosum, G. juniperi-virginianae, G. nidus-avis, Glomerella cingulata, G. rubicola, Glutinium macrosporum, Haplosporella mali, Helminthosproium papulosum, Hendersonia cydoniae, Hendersonula toruloidea, Hormodendron cladosporioides, Hydnum setosum, Hymenochaete agglutinans, Hypholoma sublateritium, Illosporium malifoliorum, Lambertelia corni-maris, Lentinus tigrinus, Leptosphaeria coniothyrium, Leptothyrium pomi, Leucostoma persooni, Liinospora ochracea, Marasmius pyrinus, Merulinus corium, M. papyrinus, Microdiplodia pirina, Monilia cinerea, M. fructigena, M. laxa, Monochaetia mali, Mucor piriformis, Mycosphaerella pomi, M. sentina, M. tulasnei, Myriangium asterinosporum, Myxosporium corticola, M. mali, M. microsporum, Nectria cinnabarina, N. coccinea, N. galligena, N. ditissima, Neofabraea malicorticis, N. perennans, Nummularia discreta, Oidium farinosum, Oothecium indicum, Pellicularia koleroga, Penicillium expansum, Peniophora cinerea, Peyronellaea veronensis, Pezicula corticola, Pezizella oenotherae, Phacidiella discolor, Phacidiopycnis malorum, Phellinus friesianus, Phialophora goidanichii, Ph. malorum, Pholiota adiposa, Phoma glomerata, Ph. pomi, Ph. prunicola, Phomopsis mali, Ph. perniciosa, Phyllosticta mali, Ph. prunicola, Ph. persicae, Ph. pirina, Ph. solitaria, Phyllactinis suffulta, Phymatotrichum omnivorum, Physalospora obtusa, Ph. mutila, Ph. rhodina, Ph. malorum, Ph. cydoniae, Phytophthora cactorum, Ph. citricola, Ph. palmivora, Ph. parasitica, Ph. primulae, Ph. syringae, Ph. vignae, Plenodomus fuscomaculans, Pleospora fructicola, P. herbarum, P. mali, Pleurotus ostreatus, P. ulmarius, Podosphaera leucotricha, P. clandestina, P. oxycanthae, Polyporus purpureus, P. ignarius, P. versicolor, Puccinia heterospora, Pythium aphanidermatum, P. debaryanum, P. intermedium, P. oligandrum, P. ultimum, P. vexans, Radulum aterriumum, Rhabdospora rhodina, Rhizoctonia aderholdii, Rh. solani, Rhizopus arrhizus, Rh. nigricans, Roesleria hypogaea, Rosellinia necatrix, R. radiciperda, Schizophyllum commune, Sclerotinia cydonia, S. fruticola, S. fructigena, S. laxa, S. mali, S. nipponica, S. sclerotiorum, Sclerotium rolfsii, Scolecosporium pedicellatum, Septobasidium mariana, S. pedicellatum, S. pseudopedicellatum, Septoria piricola, S. pyri, Sphaeropsis malorum, S. pomorum, Sphaerotheca gestum, Stereum hirsutum, S. purpureum, Stromatinia fructigena, Trametes hispida, Trichoderma viride, Trichoseptoria fructigena, Trichothecium roseum, Tympanis conspersa, Ulocladium consortiale, Ustulina zonata, Valsa albiens, V. americana, V. leucostoma, Valsella melastoma, V. papyriferae, Venturina inaequalis, Verticillium dahliae, Xylaria longeana. Apple trees may be parasitized by the following flowering plants: Cuscuta monogyna, Psittacanthus cuneifolius, Comandra pallida, Phoradendron flavescens, Viscum album, V. cruciatum, Loranthus oleifolius and L. virescens. The main bacterial diseases of apples are caused by the following: Agrobacterium rhizogenes, A. tumefaciens, Erwinia amylovora, Pseudomonas melophthora, Ps. papulans, Ps. syringae. Some of the viruses causing diseases in apples are: Apple chat fruit, Dwarf, Epinasty, Flat limb, Green crinkle, Green mottle, Leafspot, Line pattern, Apple mosaic, Pyrus virus #2, Proliferation, Ringspot mosaic of pear, Apple rosette, Rough skin, Rubbery wood, Scaly bark, Striped mosaic, Stunt, Tulare apple mosaic, Variegation, Yellow dragon and Yellow mosaic (Marmor rosae). Apples have many physiological ailments, linked to weather conditions, mineral deficiencies, water supply, storage, and genetice. The following nematode list includes species known to cause problems in apples: Criconemella curvata, Crossonema multisquamatum, Doryllium minor, Globodera mali (a cyst nematode in the USSR), Longidorus macromucronatus, L. maximus, Meloidogyne hapla, M. incognita acrita, M. mali, Merlinius brevidens, Neotylenchus sp., Paratylenchus amblycephalus, P. hamatus, Pratylenchus coffeae, P. penetrans, P. pratensis, P. thornei, P. vulnus, Trichodorus viruliferus, Tylenchorhynchus dubius, T. maximus, and Xiphinema americanum (Golden, p.c. 1984). The worst apple pests in the United States are: Fruit-tree leafroller (Archips argyrospilus), Redbanded leafroller (Argyrotaenia velutinans), Plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar), Wooly apple aphis (Eriosoma lanigerum), Codling mth (Laspeyresia pomonella), Tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris), Oystershell scale (Lepidosaphes ulmi), European red mite (Panonychus ulmi), Spider mite (Tetranychus modanieli), and White apple leafhopper (Typhlocyba pomaria).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw