Botanical Versus Pomological Systems

The characteristics of the tree, especially the habit of growth and color of young shoots, are often of great service in distinguishing between varieties that are much alike in fruit. Usually, however, in identifying varieties such characteristics are not obtainable, and all systems of classification dependent upon characteristics of the blossoms, leaves, young shoots, or habit of tree have proven impracticable in case of the apple and pear. Whenever known such points should be recorded. In case of cherries, peaches, plums, and grapes such systems are of service, because the fruit ripens while the plant is in full leaf. Advocates of these so-called botanical systems regard the fruit only as part of the tree, the same as the egg as a product of a bird; hence any variety should be described by the tree as well as by the fruit, all other methods appearing to them as superficial and unscientific.

The advocates of the pure pomological systems consider the fruit itself as something independent, and confine themselves to exact and minute descriptions of the fruit only, much as an oologist would attempt a description of, or key to, all sorts of bird eggs, without knowing beforehand the name of the mother bird. And in most cases the pomologist must determine the name of a variety of apple without any information as to character of tree.

In the following pages a brief sketch of the leading pomological systems of classifying apples is presented, without attempting to include every system known to pomological history.

The Two Earliest Systems

1668. The earliest attempt at classifying apples is probably that of Johann Jonston, in Wurtemberg, Germany, in 1668. The system is of value only in showing that a large number of varieties was then in cultivation.

1780. Manger, in Potsdam, Germany, divides apples into eight classes according to form: round, elliptical, ovate, cylindrical, flat, hyperbolic, parabolic, irregular. These were condensed into three classes: a. Regular.

I. A. Flat. b. Plaited at eye.

c. Plaited and ribbed.

a. Regular.

II. B. Hyperbolic. b. Plaited at eye.

c. Plaited and ribbed.

a. Regular.

III. C. Parabolic b. Angular, etc., at eye.

c. Ribbed.

There are good points in this classification which should not have been overlooked.