Tree Fruits

THE UNIVERSITY'S fruit breeding program began nearly a century ago and is one of the oldest continuous programs in North America. With support from the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, plant breeders faced the challenge of the rigorous Minnesota climate, from extreme subzero winters to hot and dry summers. In the early 1900s, parent trees were collected from the wild as well as from Midwest and New England growers. Early researchers produced thousands of fruit seedlings from those parent trees. As with research then and now, hard work combined with chance led to major breakthroughs. The winter of 1917-18 set records for extreme cold; however, some progeny of "Malinda" - a New England apple - survived and were a boon to Minnesota's breeding program. "Haralson," "Folwell" and "Minnehaha" were siblings released in the early 1920s, and some of "Malinda's" genes live on in "Honeygold" and even "Honeycrisp"™. The plethora of U of M plums introduced in the 1920s can also be traced to the severe test winter of 1917-18.

TODAY, U OF M RESEARCHERS combine traditional plant breeding methods with modern techniques. Laboratory freezing tests during the winter help select the hardiest grape selections without waiting for the once-in-a-decade test winter. Precocious dwarfing rootstocks reduce the years and space required to grow thousands of seedlings. In vitro or "test tube" micro-propagation (tissue culture) provides a rapid means of propagating disease-free stocks of blueberries, raspberries, and grapes. And recently, U of M scientists made plant acquisition expeditions to capitalize on the hardiness of wild varieties in the extreme climates of Kazakstan and China. At the end of the century, only a few states have fruit breeding programs and the U of M is the last major program in the Midwest.


Sungold*         1960        yellow with red blush, very hardy, plant with Moongold for fruit set
Moongold*      1960        golden yellow

Tart Cherry

Meteor*          1952         vigorous red pie cherry, self-compatible, requiring no pollinatorNorthstar*1950semi-dwarf, self-compatible

Nanking Cherry

Orient             1949


Deep Purple    1965
Nicollet           1924
St. Anthony     1923
Zumbra           1920


Summercrisp*  1985        sweet flavor and crisp fruit
Golden Spice*  1949        small fruit, very hardy
Bantam            1940
Parker              1934


Alderman*       1986        high quality, hardy, attractive small landscape tree
Pipestone*       1942        large red fruit, tolerates dry soils
Superior*         1933        hybrid with large, pointed fruits, excellent eating
LaCrescent*     1923        yellow fruit
Underwood*    1920        hardy, vigorous tree, large fruit
Redglow          1949
South Dakota  1949
Redcoat          1942
Elliot               1936
Radisson         1925
Mendota         1924
Hennepin        1923
Waconia          1923
Anoka             1922
Goldenrod      1922
Mound            1921
Winona           1921
Ember             1920
Monitor          1920
Red Wing        1920
Tonka             1920

*=varieties available from retail nurseries, those without are heirloom varieties with limited availability

Continue on to 150 Years of Apples


'Sungold' apricot is a fine ornamental small tree, but will not set fruit consistently in Minnesota due to the high probability of frost injury to the flowers.


Plum tree.
'Alderman' plums have large golden flesh with burgundy skin. The horizontal branches make it an attractive small tree for landscape use. Plant 'Superior,' 'Toka,' or 'Compass' as pollinators along with 'Alderman' for best fruit set.
Flowering plum tree.
'Superior' plum is nearly 70 years old and still popular for its showy flowers and delicious fruit.


Cherries in a cherry tree.
'Meteor' tart cherry is hardy in central and southern Minnesota. One tree will produce fruit; it does not require another tree for pollination and fruit set.


Pear tree.
'Summercrisp' pear is hardy in most of Minnesota. To improve productivity, plant another type of pear to act as a pollinator.