Wolf River Apple Tree- Zone 3
Characteristics of the tree
Wolf River is so large that it was said to have inspired the saying ‘one apple, one pie’! This heirloom variety is perfect for the home gardener and the fruit particularly shines when cooked into pies and applesauce.
The Wolf River apple is famously large in size, and excels as a cooking apple for pies and applesauce. The Wolf River apple tree bears fruit up to 20cm in diameter, although the average size is 11cm . The average weight of this fruit is around 300g, however it is common to find apples weighing up to 450 g. The apple flesh is firm with a slightly coarse texture. It has a mild sweet flavour, with some tartness when it is harvested earlier. The fruit will become sweeter if you leave it longer on the tree when the weather becomes cold. It is ready for harvest in early-October, but can be kept on the tree for one month, and used whenever you need it.
The fruit has a red and green peel with a light yellow to greenish small circle on top, and is very versatile, although it is especially appreciated for cooking. It has been noted as one of the best apples for making apple butter, producing a deliciously smooth, creamy apple butter when cooked slowly for a couple of hours. Some restaurants also cook it in the oven with syrup in the middle after they have removed the core. Wolf River keeps for about two months in cold storage, but if you want to eat it fresh it is better not to wait too long, as its texture becomes less crunchy and more spongy the longer it is stored.
The Wolf River apple tree has very vigorous growth. It is loved for its excellent resistance to both scab and mildew. It also has some resistance to the bacterial canker and the cedar apple rust. Although it has some slight susceptibility to fire blight, overall, it has very good resistance to disease. The tree is hardy to zone 3. Wolf River takes a little longer to produce fruit than is usual for apple trees, so some patience is required. It is self-fertile and will produce fruit on its own, but you will get a much better harvest with a pollinator planted nearby.
The Wolf River is born from an Alexander apple seedling. It has a long documented history that traces its origin from the shore of Lake Erie to its birthplace along the banks of the Wolf river, near Fremont, Wisconsin.
William Springer, born in Vermont in 1818, worked during his twenties as a lumberman and rafter in Quebec. He later married and moved to Wisconsin, along with his family. While stopping along the way near Lake Erie, he bought a whole bushel of Alexandre apples. As soon as he arrived at his new farm in Wisconsin, Springer sowed the seeds he had kept from the Alexandre apples along the banks of the river Wolf that flowed nearby. It is one of these seeds that gave birth to the Wolf River apple that we know and propagate today. Springer participated in a horticulture exhibition in 1880, to present an apple he called ‘the monster apple’ – a Wolf River apple weighing 600g! He was known in the area as an enthusiast for flowers and fruit, and participated in all the horticultural fairs in his area every year. He was well known for always arriving with baskets of flowers and fruits, which he would then proceed to distribute freely among the attendants.
The photograph is a portrait of William Springer.
The illustration shows different stages of our apple trees growth up until the age of 20 years (as one rarely plans a landscaping arrangement with a longer time period in mind). At 100 years old, the apple tree will be even larger than shown here – it can reach 7 m in height and spread over 9m – while the house might no longer exist!
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions. What we show here is based on our observation of observations of the growth of apple trees in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In zone 2, growth will probably be slower, while in a rich soil it would be faster.
All our apple trees are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees, is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 2-3-foot apple tree, just like one that you might receive. Depending on the height you choose at the time of purchase, the tree might be a little smaller (1-2 feet) or somewhat taller (3-5 feet.)
All our apple trees are grafted on standard-sized rootstock, which we grow ourselves at the nursery. Trees that are grafted on standard-sized rootstock will become full-sized apple trees (as opposed to dwarf, or semi-dwarf.) While the life expectancy of a dwarf apple tree is only about 20 years, full-sized apple trees such as those we propagate have a lifespan of around 100 years. We believe it is of the utmost importance to plant for future generations, which is one of the main reasons we prefer these kinds of trees.
Besides this, standard-sized apple trees also have many other qualities that set them above dwarf and semi-dwarf trees in our view. For example, their deep and well-developed root systems allow them to draw water from deep underground during periods of droughts. They are more vigorous and resilient, which in turn also makes them more disease-resistant. They are very hardy, and last but not least, much more productive!
To learn more about grafting and the role of rootstocks, see our article here!