The common (or domestic or orchard) apple has been grown for thousands of years and its origins are still uncertain. A central role has been played by the central Asian species Malus sieversii, called Eve’s apple in Finnish. Genetist and breeder Nikolai Vavilov studied the apple forests on the Tien-shan-mountains in the 1930s and came to the conclusion that this unique large-fruited wild apple had developed without any human influence, spreading with the aid and assistance of bears, which ate the fruit and distributed the seed. In antiquity, this apple spread along the Silk Road into China and the Mediterranean basin, after which it has possibly hybridised with other wild species. Vavilov’s view that the domestic apple and Eve’s apple are one and the same species has gained some support from recent genetic studies.
Nowadays the apple has been spread by man all over the world and is the biggest fruit producer of any species. There are thousands of named varieties, with several hundred in Finland. When A. F. Tigerstedt became master of Mustila Manor in 1901 it was obvious an orchard would be established on manor land. However, these apple tree plantings were limited to the area immediately around the manor house, not in the area now making up the Arboretum.
At the beginning of this millennium, new varieties have been planted in the Arboretum proper, mainly Russian and Estonian in origin, which have been little tried here. Some of them have inherited resistance to apple scab from the Japanese crab (Malus floribunda), which makes them suitable for organic farming.