Cornish Apple Varieties

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Below are a few of the apple tree names known as Cornish varieties. In truth, alas, there are no native named varieties of Malus domestica, the productive apple. Originating from Kazakhstan and Southern Asia, Apple trees dribbled into the British Isles most likely through trading routes. These named varieties have proved to be tolerant of the damp weather and are productive within Cornwall and most likely would do well on the west side of this country within the Marine temperate zone 7 climate. There are other national varieties that will do well in Cornwall too, but there is a far greater list of them that are poor performers away from the dry regions of the south eastern parts of the UK where the climate is classified as Temperate zone 7, without the word ‘marine’ included.

The Cornish apples listed below cover eating, cooking, dual purpose and cider varieties.

A selection of Cornish Apple varietiesFlowering groupUse Description
Bens Red1EatingShrub like or compact tree in habit. Flat dark red or variably striped dark red on orange/ red flush. Ripens in September. Very variable in colour on site, influenced by soil and weather conditions.
Bread Fruit2EatingFairly vigorous, spreading and reliable cropping; medium green with a brownish red to carmine flush and faint red broken stripes, with strawberry flavour when ripe. A second early/ mid season dessert apple.
Cornish Aromatic4EatingSaid to be one of the finest Cornish late season apples. Keeping until Christmas and after, medium to large yellow with orange and red plus some russet colouring; sweet/ sub acid and aromatic.
Cornish Gilly flower4EatingConsidered one of the finest flavours of all apples but needs favourable growing conditions, weather and skill of the grower. Tip bearing, whippy and if conditions prevail can be prone to scab, but said to be worth the challenge. Late to very late ripening.
Cornish mother5DualVigorous upright & spreading. Medium pale green with dull red flush and faint darker red stripes.
Lord of the Isles CiderA sub acid/acid taste closely related if not the same as to a national variety called Newton’s Wonder.
Manaccan Primrose1-3DualWhile being sharp enough for cooking when the sugar content rises as the season progresses they can be eaten raw. There is a claim that its slight genetic mutation makes it moderately superior to The Rattler. It produces an overwhelming number of apples in late August/ early September
Pendragon1EatingInitially upright and weeping tree. Blossom is red; leaves are dark red/green. The fruit is small, red with dimpled skin. The flesh is deep red. Upon eating, your palate will register both bitter and sweet. Pink juice.
The Rattler  See Manaccan Primrose
Tommy Knight1-3CiderThe apples are small, red, hard and sweet on a densely twiggy tree. The fruit looks very attractive but late in arriving on the tree. Thought to originate in St Agnes before 1861. Most likely originally used for cider making or some sort of processed food but not for eating

Remember as a guide but not a hard and fast rule, the earlier the flowering, the earlier the harvest. However the later the flowering, the later the harvest but the better the fruit tends to be for keeping.  Some can, in the correct conditions, keep through till March of the following season.

The flowering time for apple trees can be very variable and for ease of guiding the grower,  it has been divided into 5 flowering groups in the above tables; progressing through the flowering season in incremental stages from group one to group five. There is a definite start and stop but the intermediate groups overlap one another as the season unfolds

Remember a variety of different flowering times within your collection will give you a variety of fruiting times without all the fruit coming at once.

Also you need to bear in mind that you will need at least two varieties of trees of the same or similar flowering group for pollination, as most apples are diploids (requiring two different flowers for pollination.) For example, to pollinate a tree in flowering group 2 you will need another tree from flowering group 1, 2 or 3 to achieve fruiting. Each flowering group period overlaps the adjacent one and some trees cover more than 1 or 2 flowering group periods.

Should you choose to have a Bramley in the mix as well, you will need at least 2 other trees flowering at the same time to achieve pollination as a Bramley is a triploid and requires three flowers to enable fruiting to take place.

Finally the performance of all apple trees can be affected by a variety of factors including the weather, soil, exposure and aspect. The majority of all fruiting plants require sun to enable growth and ripening.

I have observed that it is by far best to plant a smaller apple tree and allow the tree to grow into its environment than plant a larger tree and have to stake it only for the tree to fail after the stake has rotted and naturally failed.