Explorers Track Down Ancient Fruit Trees Before They Are Gone Forever

"Fruit and nut explorers traverse the US on an ecological mission to preserve the last cultivars of old and important plants".

"Eliza Greenman plucks a wrinkly, canoe-shaped leaf from a tree and cradles it in her hands before sliding it into a plastic freezer bag. She’s standing beneath a mulberry tree in a field on the banks of the Mattaponi River, a tributary that cuts through eastern Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay. Greenman had to sleuth to find this historical mulberry, which is meandering, ancient, studded with unripe, spiky white fruits, gnarled with English ivy and a distinctive wave pattern on its bark.

“It’s so cool to imagine that this field was potentially all just mulberries,” Greenman says, staring out at the shimmery rye across the road.

Greenman is a fruit explorer: a horticultural enthusiast who roams the United States searching for the last cultivars of old, rare or important plants. Throughout the centuries, the residents of North America – from Indigenous Americans to white botanists in the early 1900s – cultivated various fruit and nut trees. These trees’ last descendants now grow on remote farms, in forests, on state lands, tucked along roads. Fruit explorers’ mission is to track down those trees, test their quality and then graft them before their genetics are lost forever."

Emily Cataneo reports for the Guardian July 22, 2023.

Source: Guardian, 07/24/2023