The Ontario Heritage and Feral Apple Project  

COVID-19 UPDATE: Research activities at Canadian universities are currently restricted due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Please feel free to contact us, but our ability to receive and test samples is limited at this time.

Plant Population & Evolution Research Lab

Test my tree!

Green apples on a tree

Do you have an old apple tree that you would like identified?

By comparing the genotype (genetic fingerprint) of your tree to our genetic library, we may be able to identify the cultivar for you.

Named apple cultivars, like 'Northern Spy' or 'Mcintosh', are propagated by cloning: branches or buds from existing trees are grafted onto rootstocks or branches of other apple trees. This means that all individuals of a given cultivar are genetically identical (more or less), which is what allows us to identify them.

On the other hand, apple seeds are usually NOT genetically identical to either of their parents, and are normally a cross between two different cultivars. If your tree grew from such a seed, we won't be able to identify it for you, although we might be able to identify possible parents for it.

Clues that your tree is a named cultivar include it's location (e.g. planted in rows in an old orchard) or some knowledge of the tree's history that suggests it was intentionally cultivated. You may also be able to detect a graft point low on the tree's trunk, although this is difficult to see in older trees.

Step 3 : Collect some leaves

We will need two small to medium-sized leaves.

The best time to collect these is in the spring when they are actively growing (May and June), but as long as they are collected before they start to change colour in the fall, there's a good chance that they'll be OK.

Avoid collecting leaves from branches that start near to the ground. These might be shoots coming from a rootstock.

Keep the leaves out of the sun after collecting them and try to keep them from getting too warm.

Step 4 : Dry the leaves

Step 2 : Make some notes

Collect some information about your tree. Where is it located? What do you know about its history? How big is it? What are the fruit like?

Fill out an information form. You can send this to us when you send us your leaves (Step 5).

The best results are achieved when leaves are dried quickly at room temperature or cooler.


The best way to dry your leaves is with a commercial desiccant such as silica gel beads. These are often sold at craft stores for drying plant material. We can send you a kit with silica gel beads there will be an additional fee to cover shipping (see "What will it cost?" below).

Step 5 : Send us your leaves

• Place your dried leaves in a small envelope or a folded up piece of paper, label it, and place it inside an envelope or card.

• Enclose your completed information form with the sample.

• Mail it to us by regular mail at the address below

• Email Paul at so he knows it's on the way.

We'll do the rest!

Paul Kron

Room 1409, Summerlee Science Building,

University of Guelph,

50 Stone Rd E.,

Guelph, Ontario, Canada,

N1G 2W1

What will this cost?

If you are sending us a cultivar of known identity for us to add to our collection, there is no fee. If we are testing a tree for you to determine or confirm its identity, then unfortunately, we do have to charge a fee to cover some of our expenses. At present, we are requesting $15 for every tree you would to have tested. We will contact you with details about how to pay this fee.

We can also send you a sampling kit with everything you need to collect and dry leaves for up to 6 trees. Due to the cost of mailing these kits, we have to charge an additional $15/kit. Again, there is no fee if you are sending us a known cultivar. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT COVID-19 CLOSURES MAY AFFECT OUR ABILITY TO SEND KITS AT THIS TIME.

These fees only partly cover the cost of testing your sample. If you would like to contribute more, please consider making a donation to our project.

When will I get my results?

The tests take some time to run and we have to wait to receive a minimum number of samples to run in a batch. We're hoping to test the samples during the summer of 2020 and to have results back to you before the fall. COVID-19 CLOSURES MAY AFFECT THIS TIMELINE.

What about larger scale projects (multiple trees)?

If you have a larger scale project in mind, involving larger numbers of tree (more than 10), please contact us and we'll discuss whether we can accomodate you, and how the fee structure might change.

Young apple tree with obvious graft point

Young apple tree with obvious graft point

TRee base with low growing shoots

Branches starting near ground level that may be growing from the rootstock

Step 1 : Try to confirm that your tree is a cultivar

Silica gel desiccant

Silica gel desiccant

Put your leaves in a closed container with the desiccating material. Keep the leaf from direct contact with the desiccant, for example, by placing it in a small envelope, a folded piece of paper or a reusable tea-bag. Keep at room temperature or in the fridge until the leaves are dry (will crack if you bend them in half). This should take 1 to 3 days. See our detailed instructions.

Alternative methods: We are currently testing the effectiveness of other methods and we will update this section soon.