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Apple Blossom


Apple blossom

In the ancient fruit and nut forests of Kyrgyzstan just 111 Malus niedzwetzkyana trees are left. These wild ancestors of our Stepford apples are now reduced to a few wizened and twisted veterans who, in the past 50 years, have watched 90% of the forests around them disappear forever.

The tastes and textures we now know as apple, pear, plum, cherry, walnut, almond and pistachio all evolved in these mountain orchards. From here they spread across the world.

But evolution doesn’t just stop and take a break when it’s finished. It’s an endless, dynamic process, a constant flow of insect, fungus, fruit, bird, bear, weather and geology. That is, until humans come along and take over.

We hold in stasis the desirable attributes of the things we want, and therefore fight harder and harder against the things we don’t. Pests and disease continue to evolve, so fertilizers, pesticides and genetic technologies of ever greater potency are required to keep things just exactly how we like them. Once you start interfering, you have to keep interfering. And the thing we’re tinkering with is finely balanced. So far we’ve been clever enough. Perhaps our vision is that one day we’ll be able command the whole of nature under our baton.

Unfortunately we’re making a bit of a hash of it. As we degrade the habitats in which diverse gene pools flourish, we blindly squander our own resources. As we lose ancient species of tree from the forests of Central Asia, genes that have developed over millions of years drop out of the picture and become unavailable. The genetic diversity of the plants we rely on to survive becomes narrower and narrower. As diversity reduces, our capacity to adapt to catastrophic events diminishes.

Dazzled by the cleverness of our blade, we are sawing away at the very branch we are sitting on.

Apple twigs

Just 10% to go. No one seems to care much. And the rest of the branch is going to crack under the strain anyway.

So, goodbye apples.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 23/07/2009 2:44 am

    Extinction of one species to spare many others may not be such a bad a trade-off for Life. Human extinction seems tragic when you consider that we may be the only part of the universe that knows It exists. If war or disease or starvation or malnutrition wipe out a large portion of us, perhaps those that remain will decide to find new ways of dealing with conflict and sharing limited resources. Maybe not. Maybe we will all die, but it seems more likely to me that a large portion of us will die, and the survivors will adapt better ways to live within the ecological and social boundaries we have.

    Hold on to the apple tree leaves, though. Proof of ‘missing links’ are important for historical knowledge. The stories we tell ourselves and our children about our history will shape our future. We need evidence of what was so that truth won’t be counted as myth, and vice versa.

  2. Lindsey permalink
    23/07/2009 12:49 pm

    If all the forests disappear and this apple ancestor goes extinct, this museum specimen might be all that’s left! We have a few other extinct plant species behind the scenes.

    I hope something is done to protect the last 111 plants because it makes me sad to think that in the future the only bit of Niedwedsky apple might be stuck on a sheet of paper and forgotten about in a green box in an attic somewhere 😦

  3. Ros permalink*
    23/07/2009 2:10 pm


    Hope you’re having a good day. A request if you please. We’ve been nominated in a poll on Key 103 as the ‘best place to have fun for free’. If you love the Museum vote with your mouse on the Key 103 website:

    Thanks very much,
    Ros and Corinne!

  4. Clare permalink
    23/07/2009 3:45 pm

    No! We should keep the original apple trees and do more than that – actually try to propogate new ones using their fruit. It is very important to keep old or original species alive becuase they are untainted, untouched by modern tinkering and it is possible that one day we may need to move back to the purity of an original type for medical or other scientific purposes. Also: that apple was here for centures before we were – what right does modern mankind have to sentence it to extinction? I propose that the apple trees and the blossom in the Museum should be preserved.

  5. 24/07/2009 9:34 am

    Dear Director,
    I propose an orchard of Malus niedzwetzkyana clones alongside the bee hive on your Museum roof!

  6. 30/07/2009 1:46 pm

    The biggest trouble is we human being is doing
    it to the human species. (in opposite ways)
    With the misconceived so-called humanism
    we are weakening our own species.
    Now 10% of population is either physically or
    mentally defective, and we are loosing resilience
    against the bag and virus.
    Many years ago I wrote small article “The right
    to born or the fate to die”
    I’m not sure are we off the track of Dharma or not.

  7. Leander permalink
    07/10/2009 11:50 am

    The Collections Development Panel, along with the director and the artist, discussed the Apple specimen at a meeting on 3rd September

    The blog responses and discussions were summarised as:
    “Blog contributors suggested we use it to grow an orchard of apples (pollinated by the re-introduced Museum bees?).”

    The group suggest that we retain the specimen and investigate the planting of apple trees in the Living Plants display (or local environment).

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