Arkansas Black Apple TreeMalus domestica ‘Arkansas Black’
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Malus domestica ‘Arkansas Black’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Arkansas Black Apple Tree is a vigorous and hardy heirloom apple variety that has the darkest red skin of any apple. The crisp white flesh is tasty, full of subtle flavors typical of vintage varieties. It crops late, in October or November, and stores for 6 to 8 months in suitable conditions. The skin becomes even darker in storage, and the flesh softer and sweeter. It carries a heavy crop, and is pollinated by many other apple varieties.
Plant the Arkansas Black Apple Tree in full sun, in any well-drained soil. Enrich with organic material when planting, and use as mulch as your tree grows. Resistant to diseases and rarely troubled by pests, this variety grows across a wide area of the country, needing 800 to 900 chilling hours. Prune while young to develop a broad, open form, and thin heavy crops as necessary to produce top-quality fruit.
Why grow in your garden what you can buy in a store? It’s a good question, and one that leads most people who grow produce at home to seek out rare and unusual varieties to grow. These heirloom foods are unique and often delicious, and the ‘Arkansas Black’ Apple is certainly both. A great apple to store through winter, the skin, already deep red when you harvest in October or November, turns darker in storage, where it lasts for up to 8 months. When you take it some out in April they will be an amazing near-black, while the creamy-white flesh will be sweet and honey-flavored, like a natural apple-pie. Vigorous and reliable across a wide climate range, this amazing apple was once shipped around the country on the newly-built railway network, and enjoyed by everyone. Saved from extinction by a handful of enthusiasts, it is now available to you, and it will be the jewel in your fruit tree collection, or a special addition to your ornamental garden.
The Arkansas Black Apple Tree is a vigorous, upright apple tree growing between 15 and 20 feet tall, with a similar spread. Allow room for its final size when planting. The glossy green leaves are oval, with serrated edges, and they turn yellow or orange in fall. White flowers in spring, on the bare branches, herald the start of fruit development, and this tree needs a different variety of apple growing nearby to produce a significant crop of fruit. In an ornamental garden, most crab apples, especially those with white flowers, will pollinate just about any fruit-bearing apple tree. If you are growing this tree with other apple varieties, most will act as pollinators, including ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Jonathan’, ‘Gala’, ‘Yellow Delicious’, and ‘Rome Beauty’. The Arkansas Black Apple Tree is a good pollinator for many other varieties, so all your trees will benefit.
Fruit develops steadily over the summer, and this late variety is ready for harvest in October and November, so it’s ideal to grow with early-ripening varieties, so you always have apples available. When ripe the apples are round to oblong, with a uniform dark red skin and white flesh. The skin darkens in storage, becoming almost black. The yield is high, and trees begin to bear fruit within 3 years of planting. When first picked there is an acidic bite, but it mellows in storage to a sweet, honey or cider flavor. Like other heirloom varieties the flavor is complex, subtle, and variable. The white flesh is crisp, becoming softer by the end of the 6 or even 8 months this variety can be stored for. It is an excellent juicing apple, and also ideal for baking, pies and for making apple jelly.
Grow the Arkansas Black Apple Tree as an interesting lawn tree, or in the corners of your yard. Plant it among others, spacing the trees 15 feet apart, in a home orchard. It is attractive in bloom, and also when heavy with ripe apples.
This variety is hardy across most of the country, growing in warmer, sheltered areas in zone 4, and everywhere else. It requires 800 to 900 chilling hours, when temperatures are above freezing but below 45 degrees. This means it won’t grow properly in zone 9, except in the northwest.
Plant the ‘Arkansas Black’ Apple in full sun for the best harvest, although a couple of hours of shade each day will do little harm. Grow it in any well-drained soil, avoiding wet areas and heavy clays. Enrich the soil when planting, and use organic mulch over the root zone to conserve moisture and feed your tree. Do not allow grass to grow beneath a tree less than 10 years old. Water regularly when young, and avoid long periods of dryness, as this will affect fruit quality.
The Arkansas Black Apple Tree is very resistant to rust disease, and somewhat resistant to fire blight and apple scab, so it doesn’t need elaborate spraying or treatments. Pests too are relatively rare, and this vigorous tree is an easy apple to succeed with. Prune in late winter or early spring, during a dry period, and develop a central leader with radiating branches at low angles. You can adjust the angle by tying strings to rocks to pull young branches downwards. Spreading branches are easier to harvest from and ripen better, letting more sun through. Keep the growth open, and don’t allow branches to become crowded. Trim back new side-shoots to several inches long, to encourage the development of fruiting spurs. Once your tree is carrying a significant crop you will probably need to thin out the fruit, otherwise your harvest will be many very small apples. Remove excess fruit when they are the diameter of a quarter, leaving just one in each cluster.
To store for the long-term, wrap each apple in a piece of newspaper and lay out without touching on a shelf. The storage areas should be as close to freezing as possible, but not actually frozen, and it should have a 90% humidity level. The closer you can come to these conditions, the longer your apples will last.
The apple variety called ‘Arkansas Black’ probably appeared as a lucky seedling tree, and it was formally described in 1886, having been first seen fruiting around 1870. Its exact origin isn’t clear, with some saying it was found by a man called John Crawford as early as the 1840s, while others suggest it was a John Braithwaite. It has also been claimed by De Kalb Holt, the brother of Earl Holt, who owned the first commercial orchard in Arkansas. In the 1870s it launched the Arkansas apple industry, being widely publicized, and at one point making up 20% of the state’s apple crop. Fruit was shipped across the country on the new railway lines, but the Great Depression of the 1930s destroyed the apple producers. Since then it has been a rare, specialist variety.
We love having wonderful heirloom apples to offer you, like the Arkansas Black Apple Tree. Whether you grow it in your ornamental garden, or establish a home orchard, you will love this unique tree, its amazing color, and the delicious flesh. Nothing will be wasted with this long-storage variety, and you can take your time to bake and make jelly. Begin your time as an apple grower, or add to your existing collection – either way, order now, as this variety is rarely available, and is snapped up by collectors as soon as it comes into stock.