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FEATURE ARTICLE

The Mysterious Origin of the Sweet Apple

On its way to a grocery counter near you, this delicious fruit traversed continents and mastered coevolution

Barrie Juniper

Figure 6. Apple anatomyClick to Enlarge Image

Delicious and nutritious, apples grow readily in a variety of soils and in all temperate climates; some horticulturalists think there may be as many as 20,000 distinct named species. But where did this remarkable fruit come from? The short answer as regards any particular variety is that no one knows. The long answer is that the modern apple tree's ancestor probably migrated across the land bridge between North America and Asia in the late Cretaceous or early Tertiary, some 65 million years ago. Over the eons, it took on its current configuration—with the help of bears and horses—in the fruit forests of the Tian Shan range of Central Asia.


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