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Ask a Naturalist: Where were the apples this fall?

Fall is a season for harvest and high time to be picking apples from our Colorado orchards as the nighttime temperatures have started to dip into freezing and the bears are raiding fruit trees for leftovers. But where are the apples in Sondermann park this year?

We do have a secret apple orchard hidden just upstream of the middle bridge in the park. It harbors about a dozen shaggy apple trees. Tree ring data gathered by our after school club students (Young Environmental Stewards) show they were planted in the 1920’s, most likely by Kathleen O’Neill Marriage and her husband George, founders of one of Colorado Springs’ earliest plant nurseries, Upton Gardens, right here in what is now Sondermann Park!

Apples are not native to Colorado, but are hardy enough to grow here is treated to enough water. The Sondermann Park orchard sits right along Mesa Creek and was probably flood irrigated at one time by diverting water from the creek or the El Paso Canal which originally ran just behind the orchard. This year there has not been an apple to be found in the orchard here, or on many apple trees sprinkled through Colorado Springs, the ones at my house included!

The last few days of April 2017 saw multiple nights of a killing frost late in the season after the apple blooms were bursting into color and bloom. All of the blossoms froze and fell off the trees. Apple trees only get one chance to bloom in a season, so those few nights of frost did the apple crop in for the year. Colorado State University has cited May 5th as being our average last average frost date for the past ten years. Two years ago the apples made it.

Stop by the apple orchard this winter to wish the buds good luck this spring. They have already formed along the branches and will swell as one of the first signs of spring after winter solstice!

Blog by Tracy Jackson- Education Director

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Catamount Institute
740 West Caramillo St.
Colo Spgs, CO 80907
Phone: (719) 471-0910
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Website: www.catamountinstitute.org
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