Sourcing specific apple varieties or discovering new ones can be difficult and very time-consuming. Garden centres tend to stock only the popular varieties and more specialist nurseries are few and far between. Help is at hand. The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is launching the first online database which lists every known UK-grown variety of orchard fruit from apples and pears to medlars and mulberries providing a way for gardeners, cider-makers and orchard owners to find nurseries that sell them.
There are around 5,000 fruit varieties grown in the UK, many of which are specific to a geographical area. Over the last 10 years, PTES’ orchards team, with the help of over 700 volunteers and nearly 1500 orchard owners, has identified over 35,000 individual orchards in England and over 7,000 in Wales. This work has revealed that 90% of traditional orchards have been lost since the 1950s. Furthermore, 45% of the remaining orchards surveyed in England and 35% of orchards in Wales were found to be in declining condition as a habitat. By far the most common reason for this is a lack of replacement tree replanting, meaning these remaining old orchards are in danger of disappearing unless action is taken. Increasing awareness of and access to these rare and heritage varieties will help prevent them being lost over time.
FruitFinder is an online resource that enables people to find out more about local fruit varieties and source local heritage trees and grafting material to grow their own fruit trees. By making it easier to replant traditional orchards it is hoped that more traditional orchards can be conserved and their decline reversed.
Traditional orchards are fantastic for wildlife as they are made up of several different habitats, including elements of woodland, hedgerow and meadow grassland. This mosaic of habitats is home to a range of biodiversity, including butterflies, bumblebees, birds, bats and beetles. The unique way fruit trees age creates an indispensable habitat for a wide range of rare and interesting species.
For more information or to access PTES’ FruitFinder, see: https://ptes.org/fruitfinder/
PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events. Our current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards and native woodlands.