Home Systems biology Boulder Apple Tree Project documents the fruits of heritage

Boulder Apple Tree Project documents the fruits of heritage

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Boulder County’s once-forgotten apple trees don’t produce the same fruit stacked in the grocery section – they go by names like Ben Davis and Wealthy, Hawkeye and Duchess of Oldenburg. Honey crumble? Never heard of her.

The Boulder Apple Tree Project seeks to document over 1,000 of the county’s oldest apple trees to learn more about the apple industry that previously thrived here, while making connections with the community and identifying and preserving varieties. heritage.

Teams of faculty, staff and students from the University of Colorado Boulder, Front Range Community College, City of Boulder and other organizations have listed more than 800 trees since the project began in 2017, a said Amy Dunbar-Wallis, researcher at CU Boulder.

The project hosted an AppleBlitz on Saturday and 43 community members and students spread out across 57 sites, cataloging more than 60 trees in a matter of hours.

The project is also integrated into a course at CU Boulder, allowing undergraduates to gain hands-on science and community experience that they might not otherwise have, said Dunbar-Wallis.

“I’m really intrigued by how this brings the community and the students together on campus,” she said. “Most of the time, undergraduates don’t have the opportunity to engage with offsite community members and see what community members think is really valuable to the community. “

It also allows community members to see the value students add to their city, Dunbar-Wallis said.

“We hope that people will have a better understanding of their local food systems and that there are multiple ways to access food other than grocery shopping,” she said.

After taking the course last year, CU Boulder Juniors Taylor Hartke and Tiffany Willis spent the summer preparing for this fall’s Apple Course by tagging trees, visiting homes and handing out flyers to get community members interested in participating in AppleBlitz. Hartke and Willis both study ecology and evolutionary biology.

Amber Kou, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, from left to right; Gisella Di Fiore and Jordan Lee collect data while Professor Terry Bilinski takes notes during the Boulder Apple Tree Project AppleBlitz on Saturday in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Personal Photographer)

Students and volunteers measure tree height, trunk diameter and canopy circumference, as well as leaf and fruit samples to determine the age, health, history, and genetics of each tree. The oldest trees recorded so far are over 100 years old.

With science come stories, like a man whose father was buried under his apple tree or families who have eaten apples from their trees for generations.

“It’s touching for them to talk about it, but it makes you realize that the tree isn’t just about fruit,” Hartke said. “He has stories and people relate to him.”

Last year’s class and work this summer and fall were the most hands-on learning experiences of Willis’ time in college, she said.

“We live in a very unique community that is really receptive to science and what it can bring to them, especially something that is a tangible product,” she said.

The Boulder Apple Tree Project is currently focused on documenting the county’s oldest apple trees before they died, Dunbar-Wallis said, and people who think their tree might qualify can contact appletreeproject.org.


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