Most people recognize the types of fruit they see in their local grocery stores, but just a few would recognize the trees those fruits grew on. Yet in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around 1 million acres in the USA are planted with bananas, and almost 2 million acres have been planted with deciduous fruit trees. Oranges are the most popular tree fruit in the U.S. Apples are second, followed by grapefruit and peaches.
Most fruit trees are not just planted from seeds, but are grafted. Rootstock is cloned from a mom rootstock and grown to a sapling. The rootstock tree is then topped, and also a branch from an established variety of fruit is grafted to it. Some trees — apples, like — produce seeds that result in trees nothing like the parent tree. If you have the world’s most delicious apple, and you collect and plant its seeds, you get a great chance of receiving an apple tree that produces hardly edible apples. Seeds from some other species of trees that were overgrown — cherries, peaches and pears — may produce offspring that are extremely near the parent. But the parent in this instance is the top half of this tree. The rootstock a tree is grafted to makes a major difference in size and hardiness of both the tree and the fruit. Therefore a tree grown from seed may be genetically identical to the parent but still produce very different fruit if the parent is grafted and the offspring isn’t.
Not From North America
The majority of the fruit trees grown in North America now are not from here originally. Apples come in the Caucasus Mountains that run through Europe and Asia. Apples were brought to America in Colonial times, and initially used mainly to produce hard cider. Pears are native to Europe, the Near East and temperate Asia. The pears on the East Coast of North America were initially brought on by Europeans. Those on the West Coast were brought from China by Chinese immigrants. Peaches come from China and Tibet; plums come in Italy and Greece; apricots come in Manchuria, Siberia and Korea. Oranges are from China. Among the few fruits native to North America is the pawpaw. It comes in the temperate woodlands in the eastern United States.
Very few dwarf trees are dwarfs because they are naturally small genetically. Most trees become dwarfs when buds from full-sized trees are grafted to dwarfing rootstock. M.9, as an example, is a very common dwarfing apple rootstock. As soon as an apple variety is grafted for it, then the resulting tree is approximately 25 percent the height the tree could have been had the scion been grafted to full-size rootstock.
Deciduous Versus Evergreens
The further north a fruit species grows, the more likely it’s to be deciduous. Trees that are native to cold temperatures — pears and apples, for example — are always deciduous. If a tree needs a winter with freezing temperatures, then it will be deciduous. On the other hand, fruit trees that are native to tropical regions — papayas, mango and lychee, for example — tend to be evergreen. They don’t drop their leaves in the winter but stay green year-round. Fruit that is native to semi-tropical places is generally deciduous but may be evergreen.