Aug 19, 2020
Vancouver, Washington’s ‘Old Apple Tree’ dies at age 194

It’s not often that you’ll read an obituary for a tree. Or that a dead tree gets a memorial service of sorts. But then there aren’t many like Vancouver, Washington’s “Old Apple Tree.”

“In June, when we started noticing it browning out, we were very concerned,” Charles Ray, urban forester for the City of Vancouver, Washington said in a story reported by OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). “We were hoping that it was just drought-related and not actually shutting down. So when we found out it was shutting down, it was like losing an old friend.”

Death NoticeOLD APPLE TREE, 1826-2020.

The Old Apple Tree passed away this summer in Vancouver, Washington, at the age of 194. The city identified the causes of death as a spiral crack, decay and old age. Mx. Tree immigrated to the Hudson Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River as a seed in 1826. She was the only long-term survivor of the first apple trees planted in the Pacific Northwest. As such, the tree is considered the matriarch of the Northwest apple industry. She is survived by many, many descendants – too numerous to list here.

According to the OPB story:

Ray gazed at the remains of the Old Apple Tree last week during a visit to the city park specifically designated to cradle it. The wizened, thick, gray trunk leans crookedly inside a double fence. The enclosure is sandwiched between a freeway interchange, train tracks and the Columbia River. The south end of artist Maya Lin’s Confluence Project “Land Bridge” ends next to the pocket park.

The long-standing plaque at the foot of the Old Apple Tree testifies to how the community recognized the significance of the tree early on. Photos: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

“Since it dates back to the Hudson Bay era, I mean it was the start of the fruit industry in the Pacific Northwest,” Ray observed.

The historic tree produced English Greening apples, a cooking variety that does not appear on grocery store shelves.

“It’s bitter. It’s most used for baking as well as for horses,” Ray said. “And they are definitely better in apple dishes, whether it’s pie or crisp.”

Later-arriving pioneers on the Oregon Trail and the transcontinental railroads delivered apple cultivars better suited for commercial orchard production. Today, varieties like Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji and Granny Smith dominate the region’s multibillion-dollar industry.

The legacy of the forerunner lives on in other ways.

The Clark County Historical Museum hosted an online remembrance service on Sunday. More than a dozen friends and historians contributed videotaped memories and stories to honor the Old Apple Tree.

Vancouver native Jennifer Hawks-Conright recalled how her parents introduced her to the tree and how she has since passed on the fondness to her own children.

“Going there gave me a love of history that carried on throughout my life,” Hawks-Conright said. “I was just amazed by all the history it had seen.”

Runner Jenny Thompson said she often passed the Northwest’s oldest apple tree while exercising.

“It makes me sad that it is no longer with us,” Thompson said. “But I am grateful that it has its children and grandchildren that are living on.”

For the full OPB story, visit here.

Photo at top: The historic Old Apple Tree in Vancouver, Washington, died this summer at age 194.

 




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