Erosion and Johnny Appleseed

One more time with the positive effects of erosion, just for fun. Back in October 2015, I walked up the hill to see what I could see, with an apple in my pocket. Shortly before I made the image below, I threw away the core at the side of a vineyard access road.

It was a bare gravel cut just uphill from this one. Someone had mowed the weeds along the road. Tidiness, right?

So, the seeds matured over the winter, the spring melt carried water and silt and chopped up weed stalks down the slope, and even buried them in rock, making a nest of straw, silt and water about the size of a small cantaloupe, with an apple core in it. And now look.

The deer have eaten it back to a nub four times, but the rocks prevented complete disaster, and the natural accumulation of organic material and water just at this eroded space ensured success.

She’s in my greenhouse now, a new apple variety. Looks like a cross between an ambrosia and a crab! If I left her there, she’d have been graded out soon enough, or weed-whacked. Tidiness, right? I did the same to three others (I like eating apples while I walk) earlier this spring. Two were in my garden. I had thrown them there in hope. The other was on a different trail, and it was pretty beat up by weed-whacking. And a vole. She’s doing better now. Pretty fun. Now I need to find a home for them and wait for apples. They’re likely all ambrosia, golden gala, or spigold  daughters. There are several lessons here. One is the vital one is that erosion builds very specific soil environments right where conditions are right. Another is that I appear to have become Johnny Appleseed. Another is that apple breeding is more heart-healthy than fooling around with genes in a lab.


4 replies »

    • It’s pretty cool that such a thirsty plant as an apple can establish in barren gravel, if erosion is left to do its thing. Perhaps we should stop thing of them as eroding slopes, the end of something, rather than as birth slopes, the beginning of something. Mind you, eroding them all away would be terrible, so a bit of both, perhaps, in balance.



  1. But aren’t apple varieties based on grafting? And therefore, an apple grown from a seed is ??? variety? Maybe mostly inedible? Maybe the progenitor of the “Rhenisch” variety that was so popular in the late 21st century?


    • Apple varieties are propagated by grafting, as that’s easy. An apple grown from seed is a new variety. Most don’t make the cut for commercial production and its needs, and most don’t reach a high point of favour, tree habit or sweetness, but all are edible, and the acidic ones are for cider. I have a couple of seedling apples flourishing at my place, and Ambrosia, which I was involved with, is another. So is Red Delicious, Spartan, MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, and all others except for the GMO apples, the Arctic Apples, whose only claim to fame is that they don’t turn brown when cut and left out, and they can be patented. Their purpose is to make packs of pre-cut apples to sell for $5 an apple as premade lunch snacks.



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