Vancouver, Washington’s Old Apple Tree, whose roots extend through centuries, has died, the city reported Saturday.
Legend has it an English officer brought apple seeds with him in from London in his vest pocket. The seeds were planted in 1826. One turned into a tree that turned into a legend, before finally succumbing at the venerable age of 194.
“That is extremely rare, unlike any other apple tree,” said Charles Ray, Vancouver’s urban forester. “Typically, apple trees are a shorter-lived tree because they’re constantly producing apples. That wears on a tree over time.”
Not this one, which has been known as Old Apple Tree for more than a century.
“We saw a picture of the 1918 flu pandemic,” Ray said. “There were these ladies standing there, and there was a sign behind them said ‘The Old Apple Tree.’”
Over the years, the tree has become a beloved part of the city and its history, celebrated annually at the Old Apple Tree Festival in October at Old Apple Tree Park, located directly east of the Interstate 5 bridge within the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
The tree is widely believed to be the oldest apple tree in the Northwest.
It bore fruit that sometimes turned up in pies throughout its long life before apparently falling victim to a recent hot spell and, well, age.
“We would get people from all over the region telling us stories about the Old Apple Tree,” Ray said. “We would give out cuttings every year, and people would come back and tell us they took a cutting years ago, and now it’s big.
“We are encouraging people to submit stories and photos to our Letters to Trees program, which is available on our website. We will share those stories through our website and social media to celebrate the history of the tree.”
There had been trouble signs in the old tree in recent years. A significant spiral crack had been expanding in the tree’s trunk, which led to some dry rot and decay.
The Vancouver Old Apple Tree Research Team has been planning for the next step, and nurturing suckers growing up from the tree’s root system.
“Knowing this day would come, we started planning for it,” Ray said. “We’ve been caring for those root suckers where they were, especially the strategic ones, knowing at some point they could be the new Old Apple Tree because they are from the same root stock.”
Which means, really, the Old Apple Tree hasn’t died, but lives on.