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How to Identify An Apple Tree

Curious how to identify an apple tree? Apple trees love full sun, you will see them thriving in an open, sunny field. This is your first clue when trying to identify what trees are in your orchard.

Below we have listed some common characteristics of an apple tree to get your started on your quest. Additionally, we have highlighted common types of apples you can find growing in the U.S.

How Can You Identify Your Apple Trees

The shape of the tree, the texture of the bark, and the leaf structure are great places to begin your identification search.

Structure

How to Identify An Apple Tree: Illustrated Apple Tree
Apple Tree isolated on a white background

Apple trees have a semi-broad trunk with wide, spreading branches. Dwarf apple trees range from 10 feet tall and up, while standard trees can grow over to 20 feet without pruning. Many apple trees have spurs, thorn like growths along their branches.

How to Identify An Apple Tree: Bark

Apple Tree Bark
Apple Tree Bark Texture

The bark of an apple tree is generally gray and scaly. Rough to the touch, the bark may show insect damage if it has been unattended for an extended period of time.

How to Identify An Apple Tree: Leaves

Apple Tree branches and leaves
apple-tree branch with green leaves.

One of the key identifiers of your apple tree is the leaves. To get a handle on is it or is it not an apple tree when there is not fruit production brings us to leaf identification. In general, with some exceptions, apple tree greenery has similar characteristics.

Leaves on apple trees are alternate, meaning they are not symmetrical as they move down the branch. They are also a simple leaf, where each leaf grows on it’s own stem. Their coloring runs bright green to darker green on the top and a duller grayish green on the underside. Apple leaves are delicately toothed around the edges and are usually egg shaped. Finally, they are small, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, and can be fuzzy.

Buds

Apple Tree Buds
Branch of apple tree with buds.

Apple buds are oval with a pink or white blush. They can be seen developing in early spring.

Blossoms

Apple Tree Blossoms
Blooming apple tree in spring time.

Apple blossoms are a profusion of pink or white flowers. You will be delighted with a flush of spring blooms that delicately perfume the air. They are typically formed of five petals, and herald the arrival of good weather.

Fruit

The fruit is the best way to determine if you have an apple tree and what variety of apple. Look for fruiting in the late summer to early fall. We have listed several types of apples below as a resource for your search.

Identifying Different Apples

Ripe Green Apple
Whole ripe green apple.

Apple trees in the wild, can be on a biennially fruiting schedule, so it may take a year or two for an accurate determine what type of apple tree is growing. The annual alternating fruit pattern is partially due to the variety and partly due to the tree suffering from lack of pruning.

According to eXtension Apples there are over 10,000 apple varieties in the world, identifying your apple tree will take some detective work. Once the tree has fruited, you can narrow down the type based on the apple making it is easier to search apple varieties. Bloom time, skin color, harvest time, and taste all play an important role in your ability to identify apple trees and their fruit.

Type Of Apple Varieties

Once you have fruit from the tree, you can begin to determine what type of apple tree you have growing in your home orchard. Recording bloom time, color of the blossoms, and fruiting time, as different varieties have different maturity schedules, will help in the apple identification process.

Consult our website, apple tree catalog, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or online resource to find pictures to identify your type of apple. We have descriptions of the most popular varieties on our website. Start there with your identification process.

Sometimes, apple trees are grafted to produce several different varietals on one tree. Regionality plays a role in growth where some apple cultivars are more popular in certain regions or may only grow in certain zones and require a minimum number of chill hours. For plant geeks, a good place to deep dive into apple trees is the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Database.

A simple way to start the identification process is to pick up a few different types of apples at local grocery stores and do a one to one comparison test at home.

Below is a list of popular apple types to help you identify apple varieties.

Gala

Red Gala Apples
A lot of fresh Royal Red Gala apples.

Gala is the most popular apple in the US and is a good place to start your comparison. Red skinned, sweet and crisp, gala apples are the quintessential apple tree.

Properties of a Gala apple:

  • Zones: 4 through 8
  • Foliage: Green
  • Blossom Color: White
  • Harvest Time: Mid Season
  • Fruit Color: Red with yellow striations

Granny Smith

Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples are tart and firm. They are very popular in the US and easy to grow.

Properties of a Granny Smith apple:

  • Zones: 6 through 9
  • Foliage: Green
  • Blossom Color: White
  • Harvest Time: Late Season
  • Fruit Color: Bright Green

Red Delicious

Bag of Red Delicious Apples

Red Delicious apples have been a leading staple in the apple world. Identifying a Red Delicious apple should be a simple process.

Properties of a Red Delicious apple:

  • Zones: 4 through 7
  • Foliage: Green
  • Blossom Color: White
  • Harvest Time: Late Season
  • Fruit Color: Red

Golden Delicious

Golden Delicious Apples
Golden Delicious Apples

Golden Delicious apples offer a unique coloration which can help with the identification process.

Properties of a Golden Delicious apple:

  • Zones: 5 through 10
  • Foliage: Green
  • Blossom Color: White with a pink tinge
  • Harvest Time: Late Season
  • Fruit Color: Yellow-greenish with a red blush

Fuji Apple

Red Fuji Apples
Raw Red Fuji Apples in a Basket

Fuji

  • Zones: 6 through 9
  • Foliage: Green
  • Blossom Color: White
  • Fruiting Time: Late Mid-Season
  • Harvest Time: Early Season
  • Fruit Color: Dark red with yellow speckles

Lesser Known Apple Varieties

Below are some lesser known apple varieties to explore.

Apple Variety And Fruit Bearing

Each apple variety should bear fruit at some point in it’s life. Many varieties require 3 to 5 years before they begin fruit production. Some varieties need a cross pollinator for successful fruit production.

Keep in mind, if the tree was planted from seed, either by human or by animal, it may not bear fruit, or fruit that is true to the original variety. If you can see a graft union on a young tree, a bulge in the trunk near the ground, then you tree is most likely a named variety.

Ordering Apple Trees

Even if you can’t identify the volunteer tree growing in your home garden, starting your own apple orchard is a wonderful way to expand your food production. There are many advantages to growing our own apples. By employing organic practices you will grow a safer apple. When you have trees in your yard, you are eating the freshest fruit available. Your friends and family will love sharing your fresh produce. There is nothing better than knowing you grew your own produce and created a sustainable food source for years to come.

We personally love ordering apple trees from Nature Hills Nursery. They have a wide variety of apple trees to choose from and a 1 year warranty on all of their trees.

We are delighted to be your go-to apple resource. You can visit the Apple Section of our website for all your apple questions.