Apple, the fruit of pyrvs malus, of the natural order rosacea. Although the apple is mentioned in the Bible, and by Theophras-tus, Herodotus, and other ancient writers, it is probable that other fruits were designated by that name. Even now the word apple is used to designate a fleshy fruit, as the love-apple (tomato), pine-apple, rose-apple (myrtaceae). The derivation of the word is curious. Anglo-Saxon apl (German, Apfel), one of the few names of our common fruits not derived from the Latin or French, is, according to Dr. Prior, of common origin with the Zend and Sanskrit ab or ap, water, and p' hala, fruit. The Latin pomum, from the root po, to drink, would also signify "a watery fruit." Whatever he the parent country of the apple, it was doubtless of eastern origin. Pliny mentions the crab and wild apples as small and sour, so sour "as to take the edge from off a knife; " but some, he says, are remarkable for their "tine flavor and the pungency of their smell.'" Many varieties were cultivated about Rome, and they usually bore the names of those who originated them or grafted them. More than 20 sorts are mentioned by Pliny, but none of these, if in existence now, can be identified from his brief and imperfect description.
Probably the Romans introduced the apple into England as well as the pear, but the early chronicles are silent as to its subsequent history in that country until after the establishment of Christianity, when the monks and heads of religious houses planted orchards, and henceforth the fruit became common. The early settlers of America brought apple trees, and an island in Boston harbor where they were planted still bears their name. The Indians helped to spread the fruit through the country, and "Indian orchards" are common throughout New England. - Whether in the wild state or cultivated, the apple is by no means a handsome tree. The stem is slow-growing, low-branching, with rigid, irregular branches, in many varieties pendent to the ground; the bark after the tree has passed its early youth becomes rough and scaly; the diameter of the head is usually greater than its height, which seldom exceeds 30 feet; the leaves are broad, tough, and rigid, those of sweet-fruited trees being usually of a darker green; the blossoms are generally tinged with red and are sweet-scented; the fruit is more or less depressed at the insertion of the peduncle; woody threads (10) pass through the fruit, being regularly disposed around the 2-5 carpels, which contain two seeds each.
The apple tree is very tenacious of life, many specimens bearing fruit in this country at an age of nearly 200 years, and the best artificial varieties last from 50 to 80 years. Various species of the genus pyrus grow spontaneously in Europe; the P. malus is found as far north as 60° in western Russia. In the United States, the P. coronaria or American crab apple is abundant in the middle states and southward; it is about 20 feet high, and the blossoms, which appear in May and are large, rose-colored, and sweet-scented, are followed by a greenish-yellow fragrant fruit about an inch in diameter. The apple does not grow well in warm climates, and although cultivated in China and India, it is only in the cooler and mountainous parts that it lives long, and the fruit is less abundant and inferior in quality. In the Hawaiian islands the apple trees planted some years ago seem to have entirely changed their habit of growth, and send up long, vertical, almost branchless shoots. Wherever the apple occurs in its truly wild state, it is usually armed with thorns while young. - New and choice varieties of apples are obtained by planting seed, as about one in 10,000 of the resulting trees will prove better than the original, and a desirable kind once obtained may be continued by grafting or budding.
In culture deep limestone lands are the best, as indicated by the analysis of apple wood and bark by Prof. Emmons, who found in 100 parts of the ashes of sap wood 16 parts potash, 18 lime, 17 phosphate of lime; in 100 parts of the ashes of bark, 4 parts potash, 51 lime. The young trees should be planted in holes of considerable size and depth, setting the tree at the same depth it was in the nursery, taking care to replace none of the barren subsoil, and covering the surface of the ground with a mulching to retain water or liquid manure, which may then be applied without danger of caking the earth about the rootlets. The distance between trees should be from 25 to 40 feet, according to variety, some spreading much more than others. Usually in New England the trees are planted too closely; and the system of lining the stone walls with these trees has much to commend it, as the walls retain moisture and also allow the leaves and snow to drift and accumulate at their sides, thus supplying needed nourishment to the trees; and, moreover, as the rocks wear away they replace the potash in the soil, or, if it be a limestone rock, the limestone which the tree so much needs.
Apple trees will not grow well in wet soil, nor where the sod surrounds them; the ground should be stirred up about the trees and well manured with plaster or animal manures, as indicated by the soil, for several years after planting. Alkaline washes on the trunk will preserve the even green bark until the tree is 10 or 15 years old. The rich soils of the western states yield apples of unequalled size, but the flavor is inferior to those produced on eastern limestone soils, or where the proportion of vegetable matter in the soil is less and that of the red oxide of iron greater. Dwarf apple trees are sometimes cultivated for hedges or ornament, and the Chinese raise the tree in pots. Many varieties grafted on the wild crab do well and are dwarfed; but in Europe the favorite stock for dwarfing is the French paradise apple, a naturally small tree, or the English douzain. In England and France the trees are trained on Avails, as espaliers and balloon-shaped, to insure ripening; but in the United States no such precaution is necessary.