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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - April 01, 2009

From: Dothan, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Apple trees for Dothan, AL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I would like to plant early, mid and late season apple trees in my area Dothan Al.What types can I plant that will help pollinate each other? I have plenty of room and planting some crabapples trees would be fine with me. I can still remember the jelly my grandmother made from the crabapple trees.

ANSWER:

We had an interesting time researching the answer to your question. We did, indeed, find two crabapples, also sometimes referred to as "wild" apples, native to Alabama. They are Malus angustifolia (southern crabapple) and Malus coronaria (sweet crabapple). Beyond that, it appears that all varieties of apple, genus Malus and family Rosaceae, are descended from areas possibly in Turkey or Russia, but not native to North America. As you know, since you have visited with us before, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. This puts the Malus domestica out of the range of our expertise. To make it even more complicated, apple trees now are almost all the product of grafting, putting the cutting of one species onto the root of another, producing yet another species. We also learned that all apple varieties should be considered self-incompatible, that is, they cannot pollinate themselves or any tree of the same apple variety. So, you know from the start you need another, different species of apple in the area for pollination, but it must be a variety that blooms at the same time. 

Since we were way out of our expertise on all this, we tried to find some websites that could give you better help than we could: Alabama Cooperative Extension Service Apple Varieties in Alabama and North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Growing Apple Trees in the Home Garden were two we think will be of use to you. And, since you are in the far southeastern tip of Alabama, there may be some concerns about chilling requirements for apple trees to flourish. Your best source of information there is the Alabama Cooperative Extension System for Houston County. This home page has contact information and directions; they will likely have printed or online material to answer your questions.

Pictures of Malus coronaria (sweet crabapple) 

Pictures of Malus angustifolia (southern crabapple)

 

 

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