Max distance for pollination for Apple Trees

Two of the things that control whether two trees will pollinate is the size of the tree and whether the trees have blossomed at the same time. While it may be possible for a bee to pollinate something a couple miles away, why would it. Most bees I’d guess are too lazy to fly that far. Possibly in a desert type environment it may happen. Picture a field in an area that gets some rain. There’s clover all over that seems to flower most of the growing season. When I watch the bees from my porch they don’t seem to have much direction, they skip flowers and they skip plants. I can’t picture those bees going to far afield.
If you have dwarf trees then it’s said that bees won’t pollinate if they’re farther apart that 50 or 60 feet. I know of a dwarf Bartlett pear that produced 3 pears each season. How many blossoms did it have, I never counted them, but I’d guess a dozen or less. You said you planted trees 30 feet apart, so I’d guess you have at least semi-dwarf trees. At that distance you could’ve planted full size apple trees. I checked my Stark Bros catalog. They list Golden Delicious as one of the pollinators for Honey Crisp. They list Golden Delicious as a self pollinating variety, so I’d say your covered in that regard. Stark says of the Golden Delicious “A most universal pollinator for other apple varieties”
Crab Apple is considered a good pollinator for apples. They recommend using crab apples in orchards for a pollinator for, in my opinion, two reasons. You don’t see dwarf crab apples so they have a lot of flowers. The other reason is that ensures that when you plant a seed from those apples the results won’t be pleasant. But they also recommend putting crab apples fairly close together in a commercial orchard. They go on about needing them more than just occasionally in a row of trees. Some in each row, staggered throughout the orchard. Myself I’d rather have an occasional Golden Delicious.

Pollination of apple trees and other fruit trees

Pollination is an important topic when growing fruit trees because many – but certainly not all – varieties require pollination from a compatible donor tree before they can set fruit. However it is a natural process that almost always “just works”. Some simple rules of thumb:

  • If you are in an urban environment you probably won’t need to worry about a pollination partner for your apple tree – there will usually be compatible apple trees or crab apple trees in neighbouring gardens and hedgerows. Pears, plums, and cherries are a bit less widely-planted though, and you can’t assume there will be others nearby, but try asking around.
  • For varieties which are not self-fertile, and require a pollination partner, the partner has to be a different variety of the same fruit species. Two trees of the same variety will not pollinate each other.
  • If you are in an isolated area and only want to plant one tree, choose a self-fertile variety.
  • If in doubt, and you have space for more than one tree of the same species (e.g. 2 apple trees or 2 plum trees), plant two compatible varieties. (If doing so, it is a good idea to choose varieties that have different picking times so that you have a spread of fruit through the season).
  • You can always contact us for specific advice and we will be glad to help.

A bee with Opal plum blossom

So having reassured you that pollination is not such a big issue when choosing what fruit trees to grow, here are some of the factors that can affect pollination:

Species

In general terms each species can only pollinate others of its own kind – apples will only pollinate other apples, pears will only pollinate pears, and so on.

Amongst apples there is generally no distinction between crab apples, cider apples, and mainstream apples – they can all potentially cross-pollinate each other.

Things are less clear with plums. European plums (Prunus domestica) can inter-pollinate with closely-related species such as damsons, mirabelles and cherry plums. European plums cannot generally cross-pollinate with Japanese plums (Prunus salicina).

Sweet and Acid cherries are also different species but can cross-pollinate each other – but usually cannot be pollinated by ornamental flowering cherries.

Blossom time

For most fruit varieties, pollination is carried out by insects, often bees. Since pollination happens in early spring, good weather which will encourage bees can be a factor.

Pollination also depends on having blossom to be pollinated – which is why the risk of late frosts which can damage blossom is sometimes a concern. Frosts just after pollination can also damage the first stages of fruit formation.

Temperatures at blossom time are also very significant for effective pollination. Pollen germination in apples works best at temperatures in the range 15C-20C / 60F-70F. If you are in an area where spring temperatures are less than this (say around 10C / 50F) then you will need lots of pollinators and/or varieties that can germinate pollen at lower temperatures. James Grieve and some of its relatives (e.g. Falstaff) produce pollen which is viable in cool spring temperatures, as does Spartan.

Whilst bad spring weather can prevent effective pollination, it is useful to know that you only need 1-2 fine warm days during the bloom period for pollinating insects to come out and for flowers to be successfully pollinated.

Flowering groups / Pollination groups

One of the easiest and simplest ways to see if two varieties could pollinate each other is to check their pollination or flowering groups. The flowering groups are not the only factor in determining compatibility between varieties, but they are a good starting point.

These groups are somewhat arbitrary (there is no official definition) but the concept is simple – each group contains varieties that flower at around the same time. Groups may be given letters or numbers, but they typically run from the earliest-flowering to the latest-flowering varieties in each species. This works for apples, pears, and most plums. Pollination is most likely to be successful with two varieties that are in the same group.

In cool temperate climates where spring lasts many weeks, such as the UK and northern Europe, you can assume that varieties in neighbouring flowering groups will also be compatible because the flowering will overlap. In continental climates where the transition from winter to summer happens very quickly, such as much of the USA and southern Europe, you can assume that varieties even two groups apart will probably still overlap and therefore have the potential to cross-pollinate.

Our variety pages automatically show you compatible varieties based on these flowering groups.

Blossom day – best ignored

Some authorities record precise dates for the peak blossom day of each variety. This sounds more accurate than flowering groups but in practice this data is potentially misleading.

The problem is that flowering dates are different from one region to another i.e. trees in more southerly or sheltered regions will usually start blossoming earlier than those in more northerly climates.

The seasons are also different from one year to the next, depending on the severity of the winter and the weather during spring. The unusually hard winter followed by a mild spring of 2011 in the UK advanced blossom by as much as 4 weeks for some varieties. The early spring of 2012 experienced across many of the northern states of the US also brought the usual bloom period forward.

A more subtle point is that in continental climates such as much of the USA, spring is often compressed – the transition from winter to summer happens very quickly. In contrast in temperate climates such as the UK – where much of the original blossom data was first recorded – the transition from winter to summer is more gradual and less prounounced, with the result that the blossom season is relatively longer.

For all these reasons, knowing an exact day can be misleading. The flowering groups, by virtue of being less precise, are more helpful when comparing different varieties.

Flowering times

Some authorities, including the UK National Fruit Collection, publish flowering time data in the following form:

10% – 6th May, 80% – 12th May, 90% – 18th May.

This means 10% of the flowers are open on 6th May, 80% open by 12th May, and 90% have fallen (10% still open) by 18th May.

In this scenario the 80% figure is equivalent to the peak blossom day mentioned above, when it is most useful as a pollinator and to be pollinated, so exactly the same caveats apply. (Whilst 90% of the flowers are open on 18th May, the majority are past the stage where they can pollinate or be pollinated). However because a spread of dates is provided, the flowering times data is more useful than just knowing the blossom day, as it allows comparisons to be made with other varieties. It also explains a key point about the flowering groups mentioned previously – i.e. that varieties in neighbouring groups are likely to overlap in their flowering times and therefore have the potential to cross-pollinate.

Rootstocks and flowering groups

Another complication is that the rootstock can affect the flowering times. For example, any apple variety grafted on the MM106 rootstock will tend to flower a few days ahead of the same variety on most other apple rootstocks, whilst the M9 and M25 rootstocks tend to delay flowering by a few days.

Good pollinators and poor pollinators

Some varieties naturally tend to produce a lot of blossom over a long period, and/or are genetically highly compatible with a lot of other varieties – this makes them good pollinators for other varieties. Most crab apples fall into this category and commercial apple orchards sometimes inter-plant them for this purpose.

Some varieties are very poor pollinators. Bramley’s Seedling is a particular case in point, because it is a ‘triploid’ variety which means its own pollen is ineffective at pollinating other varieties – see below.

Ploidy

This strange word refers to the number of chromosomes found in the cells of all living things, including fruit trees.

Most fruit trees are diploid (just like humans), which means they have two sets of chromosomes, one set inherited from the mother (the tree where the fruit subsequently forms) and the other from the father / pollinator. However some varieties of apples and pears are triploid, which means they have three sets of chromosomes. This is relevant to pollination because triploid varieties cannot cross-pollinate other varieties. Although some triploid varieties display a considerable degree of self-fertility it is perhaps best to assume they need another apple tree to pollinate them. In fact, if you plant a triploid variety you will usually require two other trees nearby, each of different varieties, which can cross-pollinate each other as well as the triploid tree.

This might put you off growing triploid varieties, but they have many advantages including often very good disease resistance – more details here.

Self-fertility

The vast majority of apple varieties are self-infertile but there are a few exceptions such as Red Windsor / Alkmene which are self-fertile – they do not require a pollination partner. However, fruiting and fruit quality is usually improved with a suitable partner.

In other species such as apricots, peaches, nectarines, quinces, the rule is the opposite – they are invariably self-fertile so you can safely plant just one example.

However even self-fertile varieties still need the pollen to be transferred from one flower to another, and if bad weather deters pollinating insects or temperatures are too cold, the pollination may be poor and you will get a reduced “fruit set”. Whilst we tend to think it is lack of sun over the summer that makes it difficult to grow warm-climate species like quinces and apricots here in the UK, it is often our wet cold springs which are the culprit.

A number of apple (and pear) varieties are also listed as partially self-fertile. This suggests they should still set some fruit even if there is no pollinating partner nearby, but this is not necessarily the case. In practice partially self-fertile varieties tend to be fully self-fertile if the spring weather is good when the blossom is open, and not self-fertile at all if the spring weather is bad. It follows that if you generally have cold wet spring weather, you should assume even partially self-fertile varieties will be self-sterile in your conditions.

As an aside, self-fertile apple and pear varieties, if not pollinated by a different variety, can be prone to a fruit disorder called bitter pit which makes the fruit rather unsightly. This seems to be related to the lack of pips and / or small pips which occurs in self-pollinated apples. Good quality apples tend to have larger and / or more numerous pips – the result of good pollination. This is the reason why (in the case of apples and pears) it is often best to plant at least two trees (of different varieties), rather than relying on one self-fertile variety.

Relationships

Even if all the other factors are taken care of, some varieties are still not compatible. This is often because there is a family relationship. Thus Golden Delicious – which is an excellent pollinator for many apples because of the duration and quantity of its blossom – will not pollinate Jonagold or Crispin and is a poor pollinator of Gala, mainly because these varieties are closely related to it (very closely related in the case of Jonagold and Crispin).

These relationship incompatibilities operate at a genetic level and are difficult for the non-scientist to follow. However a useful rule of thumb is that you can usually assume traditional varieties from the USA are unlikely to be related to traditional varieties from Europe and vice versa. Thus Golden Delicious, which originated in the USA, is a good pollinator for many heirloom European varieties. This rule breaks down for varieties developed from the late 19th century onwards though, because by then transport and communication links had developed and new varieties were increasingly raised by research stations and knowledgeable amateurs using varieties from both continents.

This self-incompatibility is a particularly important issue with the pollination of sweet cherries, and very complicated to work out. For this reason it is often best to begin your cherry orchard by planting a self-fertile cherry variety, as this will usually pollinate most of the other cherry varieties.

Fruit bud formation

In order to have pollination you have to have blossom … and in order to have blossom some of the buds must be fruiting buds rather than leaf buds. Perhaps surprisingly, this year’s fruit buds are formed the previous summer. Therefore if you have good spring weather but little blossom, the cause is often incorrect pruning the preceding summer.

Conversely, you can encourage a tree that is not producing much blossom to create more fruit buds by tying new branches to the horizontal in early summer – this fools the tree into thinking that it is fruiting, and in turn causes it to set new fruit buds (which will hopefully blossom next spring).

If I plant an apple pip will it grow into a tree of the same variety?

No, it definitely won’t. The species Malus domestica, which all apple varieties belong to, is strongly heterozygous. This means that the genes present in the pip are a mix from both the mother apple and the pollen parent. In this respect apples are very similar to humans – the child is a unique invididual, but inherits characteristics from its parents.

Check apple tree pollination compatibility online

Our online pollination checker takes into account all the above factors and can suggest pollination partners for a large number of different apple varieties and other fruit varieties.

Final word

As we said at the top of the page, inspite of all the apparent difficulties, pollination is rarely an issue in practice.

Fruit Tree Spacing & Pollination Guide

SPACING GUIDE

semi-dwarf 12′ – 15″ **
semi-dwarf 12′ x 12′ ++

Pollination Guide

APPLES & PEARS (MALUS AND PYRUS)

In order to have fruit from apple and pear trees, you need a second tree for cross-pollination. As long as the second tree is within 500 feet (150 m), pollination should occur. Within city limits, most apple and pear trees will be pollinated by insects carrying pollen from the neighbours’ trees.

If your apple or pear trees are not performing well, the following trouble-shooting list may help you to determine why:

• Cool, rainy weather conditions during flowering.

Unfortunately, other than hoping for better luck next year, there is nothing to be done.

• Old, unproductive trees that do not flower.

Generally, apple and pear trees have a productive life span of about 30 to 40 years. Trees older than this should be replaced; we do however, know of a 70-year-old apple tree that continues to produce heavily each year. Trees can be rejuvenated by removing old, unproductive growth and allowing new growth to replace it.

• A poor crop the year following a bumper crop.

Some apple varieties have a tendency to perform biennially, with a great crop one year, not much the next, and a better crop again the third year.

• No tree of the same genus (i.e. Malus) nearby.

It is best to pollinate fruit trees of the same genus with each other — apples with apples, or pears with pears — but pears can cross-pollinate with apples, as long as both trees bloom at the same time.

• The other cultivar in yard is sterile.

Some but not all ornamental crabapple trees work for cross-pollination purposes. A few varieties have sterile pollen.

• Lack of pollinating insects, such as bees.

Try adding to your flowerbeds. Most flowering plants are almost guaranteed to attract bees. The annual herb borage and the perennial beebalm (Monarda) are especially good for this purpose. Because their flowering times coincide with those of many fruit trees, marigolds, pansies, spurge, trollius, and arabis are the best choices.

• The trees are of the same variety.

Clones will not pollinate each other; for example, a Norland apple tree cannot pollinate another Norland apple tree.

APRICOTS (PRUNUS)

European apricots are self-pollinating. Only one tree is needed for fruit production. Manchurian and Siberian apricots fruit more dependably when other apricot varieties or Nanking cherries are nearby.

CHERRIES & PLUMS (PRUNUS)

• Sour cherries are self-pollinating; only one tree is needed for fruit production. Carmine Jewel, Crimson Passion, Evans, Montmorency, Northstar and Latowski fall into this category.

• Plums and cherry-plums are divided into five different groups: American Hybrids, Damson, European, Japanese and Native. The plums that we grow here fall into only 3 of these groups: American Hybrids, Japanese and Native.

In order for cross-pollination to occur, it is essential that the varieties bloom at the same time. Varieties that bloom mid-season will cross-pollinate both early and late-blooming varieties, as well as other mid-season bloomers.

Many chokecherries will also aid in cross-pollination. The closer the relationship between species, the larger and more abundant the fruit will be.

GRAPES (VITIS)

Grapes are self-pollinating. Cross-pollination is not essential, but some hybrids may have non-viable pollen. In this case, purchasing 2 or more varieties would solve the problem. Regular pruning is essential for fruit production. To do this, remove all suckers from the base of leaves after the end of June. Remove ends of canes two to three leaves past the last fruit cluster. Remove all non-producing canes.

BLUEBERRIES

Blueberries are self-pollinating, but two or more varieties will result in better yields and larger berries.

CURRANTS AND GOOSEBERRIES (RIBES)

Currants and gooseberries are self-pollinating. Excellent fruit production can be obtained with just one plant. If currants are grown near gooseberries or jostaberries however, yields can be even better!

Black currants perform better when different cultivars are grown together. Note that black currants will not cross with red or white currants; the reverse is also true.

STRAWBERRIES, RASPBERRIES AND SASKATOONS

Strawberries, raspberries and saskatoons are all self-pollinating.

Cross-Pollinate Fruit Trees

  • For best pollination, don’t plant fruit trees more than 100 feet apart.
  • Consider the fruit harvest. Fruit that’s not picked eventually will fall from the tree. Place the tree where fallen fruit won’t cause a problem — away from decks, driveways and walking paths.
  • Fertilizer isn’t recommended immediately after planting trees. They go through a kind of shock when they’re put into the ground, and fertilizer can burn tender roots. Water is all that’s needed at first. Spread pine bark mulch in a 4-foot diameter about 6 inches deep around the tree to help retain moisture. Pull the mulch back so it’s not piled against the trunk. Don’t use hardwood bark because it can release acids that lower nitrogen levels, which can weaken the tree.
  • Once the tree is established, use a mild, slow-release fertilizer, like a 10-10-10, for the first year, following the manufacturer’s directions. This promotes root growth, the overall health of the tree and a strong bud set, which leads to better pollination.
  • Water fruit trees once a week during dry spells, especially during the first two years after planting. Allowing a tree to go dry can cause a weak bud set or even cause the flowers to drop early. That means poor pollination and little or no fruit. Apply enough water to soak several inches into the soil.
  • Spray the trees with dormant oil to smother mites and insect eggs that later emerge and damage the buds. Spray it on the trees while they’re dormant, on one of the warmest and sunniest days in February. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for mixing and application, as well as all of the safety recommendations, like wearing a respirator, gloves and goggles.
  • To help honeybees pollinate fruit trees, don’t apply pesticides during bloom time. Bees are very susceptible to almost all pesticides. And even if other insects are the target, the bee population can be seriously damaged.
  • Remove nearby dandelions and other broadleaf weed flowers before the trees blossom so the bees won’t be distracted from their fruit-tree pollination job.

Fruits Trees & Pollination: What You Need To Know

If you are considering buying fruit trees, it helps to learn a little bit about pollination requirements for the type of tree you wish to purchase. Here are a few helpful facts and tips regarding the pollination of fruit trees.

Without pollination, your beautiful fruit trees will not produce a bounty of delicious edibles. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating or self-fruitful while others are non-self-fruitful. Self-pollinating fruit trees are those which do not need another type of tree nearby in order to complete the process of pollination. Cherry trees and peach trees are two types of fruit trees in this category.

Fruit trees, either container tree or bare root trees, that are not self-pollinating will need to be pollinated by another variety of tree. Apple trees and pear trees are two types of non-self-fruitful or non-self-pollinating trees.

When it comes to fruit trees, it is important to note that some types of self-pollinating trees experience a higher level of success when they are cross-pollinated with another tree. We always recommend that you purchase these self-fruitful trees in pairs, as you tend to enjoy greater fruit production.

But what does all this mean? How does one ensure proper pollination? All you really need to do is select the type of tree that you want and then do some research and find out which trees are compatible for cross-pollination. Part of this compatibility includes finding two types of trees that bloom around the same time of year. This is especially important if you are planting just two fruit trees. When planting the two trees or several trees, it is important to plant the trees at least 15- 20 feet apart, as this allows for optimum pollination.

Among our selection, some of our self-pollinating fruit trees include peach trees, European plums, figs and persimmons. Again, it is wise to buy a twin for your fruit tree to improve fruit yield.

Our non-self-pollinating fruit trees include apple trees, pear trees, hybrid plum trees and blueberries. For any of these fruit trees, you will need to also purchase a compatible pollinator.

For instance, crabapple trees would be an excellent choice as a pollinator if you were planting just about any variety of apple trees. If you prefer not to plant crabapples, you can cross-pollinate with another type of apple tree. For instance, if you wish to plant a Granny Smith apple tree, cross-pollinate this tree with a Gala tree or perhaps a Golden Delicious tree. It’s best to select two varieties that you particularly enjoy eating, of course, as well as two varieties that are compatible pollinators.

Under the Plant Info tab on our homepage, we have a section entitled Pollination Requirements. This provides you with a great deal of information regarding our fruit trees. You can find helpful pollination suggestions for all of our non-self-pollinating fruit trees in this section.

In addition to thinking about pollination when buying fruit trees and bare root trees, it is important to consider your climate and soil conditions. You will need to select varieties that thrive in your Plant Hardiness Zone. We have a large selection of fruit trees, so it should not be difficult to find some excellent options for your property.

It’s also important to consider your yard size and the eventual height of the fruit trees you plan to buy. Because many fruit trees need to be planted at least 50 feet away from each other, property size is quite important.

At Plant Me Green, you can find a wide variety of fruit trees, including container fruit trees and bare root trees. We have more than one dozen varieties of apple trees as well as crabapple trees, pear trees, fig trees, persimmon trees and peach trees. In addition, we also sell blueberries, blackberries, and grapes. We even have pawpaw fruit trees, which produce a delectable fruit that some say tastes like a banana, while others say it tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana.

Take a look at our selection, and if you have any questions about fruit trees, container trees or bare root trees, don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email.

Pollination Guide

Don’t get too worried about pollination as many have made this more complex than it needs to be.

Apples needs ≥2 varieties for pollination; ≥3 varieties if triploid (see below)
Pears needs ≥2 varieties for pollination
Cherries needs ≥2 for pollination unless self-fertile
Quince one is enough for pollination
Plums needs ≥2 for pollination unless self-fertile
Apricots needs ≥2 for pollination unless self-fertile
Peaches & Nectarines needs ≥2 for pollination unless self-fertile
Berries one is enough for pollination unless specified
Hazelnuts complex, best with more varieties eg 5 or more

The simple advise we give is this:

If you are planting more than 3 varieties of one type of fruit tree, don’t give it too much thought – you’ll have no problems.

If the trees are self fertile, again don’t worry – you’ll have no troubles.

If you are planting just one tree in an urban area, chances are high that your neighbours have done something similar and you’ll get pollination from a nearby tree. If worried, or after a couple of years of no fruit, simply plant a couple more different varieties.

If you are planting a variety of apple that doesn’t produce viable pollen (triploid), you must have 2-3 separate varieties nearby so it will set fruit.

A more complex explanation:

For people who aren’t satisfied with the above, we’ve included a longer explanation bellow. If what you read above was satisfactory, don’t bother reading the part on flowering times below, as it may just confuse you.

Generally, pollination needs two things. Firstly, a variety that produces viable pollen. Secondly, a nearby compatible variety that blooms around the same time, also with viable pollen. Bees hopefully do the rest! In the case of self fertile varieties, fruit will set from it’s own pollen, but this is less usual with apples and pears.

We separate our pollination into four groups:

  • Self-Fertile, produces viable pollen. Self explanatory really – they only need themselves for pollination, but can pollinate nearby trees of the same group that need it.
  • Partially Self-Fertile, produces viable pollen. Same as the self-fertile group, but set more fruit when a different variety in the same group is nearby.
  • Needs a pollinator for itself, produces viable pollen. This is the majority of fruit trees. It needs pollen to set fruit from another variety, but the pollen it produces can pollinate a nearby variety from the same group.
  • Needs 2-3 pollinators, produces no viable pollen (triploid). This occurs with apples only, where the variety doesn’t produce viable pollen. Not only does it need at least two – three varieties nearby to allow it to set fruit, it cant be relied on as a pollinator for other varieties.

Pollination troubles can occur if there is: a very wet or windy spring where the pollen can’t be released or received; bees are few; or if there aren’t the varieties needed to provide pollen.

Flowering Times.

These are generally grouped into Early, Middle, Late and Extra Late flowering. Pollination is best from another variety in the same or adjacent group. Lets take an example: an early flowering variety will need another variety from the early flowering group, or the middle flowering group. A middle flowering variety can be pollinated by an early, middle and late flowering variety, and so on. The vast majority flower in the Middle and Late group, so as you can see for people with more than 3-4 varieties of fruit tree of one type (eg apple including cider apples and crab apples) there will be no problems. Some varieties have an extended flowing season that span Early to Late, while others if don’t get pollinated may produce a second set of flowers and so increase the chance of setting fruit.

The two circumstances that one needs to watch out for are if there is a variety that doesn’t produce viable pollen (a triploid) – it will need 2-3 other different varieties nearby to set fruit. The other situation is if one is planting only one tree. Again the risk is low, as in urban back yards you’ll be surprised how many people have a fruit tree nearby that can pollinate yours. Or if out in the country-side, rarely is space an issue and it’s safe to plant at least 2-3.

We feel this approach is much better than listing the flowering times, requiring checking each one, and fretting about pollination troubles.

Also take a look at our article on Apple Pollination.

Fruit Tree Pollinator Charts & General Information

By: Jessica Groleau

Fruit Trees can be broken down into 2 categories:

1.) Self Fruitful or Self-Pollinating

-Cross Pollination is not essential but does improve the number of fruit

2.) Self-unfruitful or Needs Cross Pollination

– Cross pollination from one or more compatible cultivars is essential for Apples, Pears, most Sweet Cherries (except ‘Stella’ & ‘Compact Stella’), and most Japanese Plums.

– Pollen is primarily transfered by honeybees so plant trees 100 feet or less apart.

– Below are Cross Pollination Charts for Apples, Pears, Sweet Cherries and Japanese Plums.

Apple Cultivar Cross Pollination Chart

Braeburn

Cortland

Fuji

Gala

Golden Delicious

Honey Crisp

McIntosh

Red Delicious

Jonagold

Spartan

Jonamac

Braeburn

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Cortland

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Fuji

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Gala

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Golden Delicious

N

Y

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

Honey Crisp

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

McIntosh

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

N

Y

Y

Red Delicious

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Y

Jonagold

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Spartan

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Jonamac

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

X

Y

N

Y

N

Y= good cross pollinator for that cultivar
N= will not cross pollinate with that cultivar
Pear Cultivar Cross Pollination Chart
Barlett d’Anjou Bosc Comice Seckel
Bartlett

N

Y

Y

Y

N

d’Anjou

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Bosc

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Comice

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Seckel

N

N

Y

Y

N

Y= good cross pollinator for that cultivar

N= will not cross pollinate with that cultivar

Sweet Cherry Cultivar Cross Pollination Chart
Bing Sam Van Montmorency Rainer Stella Compact Stella

Garden Bing

Lambert Royal Ann
Bing

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Sam

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Van

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Montmorency

Y

Y

Y

S

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Rainer

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Stella

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

S

S

Y

Y

Y

Compact Stella

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

S

S

Y

Y

Y

Garden Bing

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Lambert

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Royal Ann

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y= good cross pollinator for that cultivar
N= will not cross pollinate with that cultivar
S= Self Pollinating cultivar
Japanese Plum Cultivar Cross Pollination Chart
Burbank Santa Rosa Shiro Satsuma Elephant Heart
Burbank

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Santa Rosa

Y

S

Y

Y

Y

Shiro

Y

Y

N

Y

N

Satsuma

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Elephant Heart

N

Y

N

N

N

Y= good cross pollinator for that cultivar
N= will not cross pollinate with that cultivar
S= self pollinating cultivar

Detailed Prunus pollination chart
(click thumbnail to open as PDF)

General Pollination Tips for Cherries & Plums (Prunus)

  • Sour cherries are self-pollinating; only one tree is needed for fruit production. Evans, Montmorency, Northstar and the Romantic series fall into this category.

Many chokecherries will also aid in cross-pollination. The closer the relationship between species, the larger and more abundant the fruit will be.

General Pollination Tips for Apricots (Prunus)

  • European apricots are self-pollinating. Only one tree is needed for fruit production. Manchurian and Siberian apricots fruit more dependably when other apricot varieties or Nanking cherries are nearby.

General Pollination Tips for Apples & Pears (Malus and Pyrus)

In order to have fruit from apple and pear trees, you often need a second tree for cross-pollination. As long as the second tree is within 500 feet (150m), pollination should occur. Within city limits, most apple and pear trees will be pollinated by insects carrying pollen from the neighbours’ trees.

If your apple or pear trees are not performing well, the following trouble shooting list may help you to determine why:

  • Cool, rainy weather conditions during flowering.

Unfortunately in this case, other than hoping for better luck next year, there is nothing to be done. Bees and pollinating insects do not fly during cold , wet and windy weather.

  • Old, unproductive trees that do not flower.

Generally, apple and pear trees have a productive life span of about 30 to 40 years. Trees older than this should be replaced. Trees can be rejuvenated by removing old, unproductive growth and allowing new growth to replace it.

  • A poor crop the year following a bumper crop.

Some apple varieties have a tendency to perform biennially, with a large crop one year, not much the next, and a large crop again the third year.

  • No tree of the same genus (i.e. Malus) nearby.

It is best to pollinate fruit trees of the same genus with each other – apples with apples, as long as both trees bloom at the same time. Pears & Apples can cross-pollinate but are not dependable.

  • The other cultivar in yard is sterile.

Some but not all ornamental crabapple trees work for cross-pollination purposes. A few varieties have sterile pollen.

  • Lack of pollinating insects, such as bees.

Try adding to your flowerbeds. Most flowering plants are almost guaranteed to attract bees. The annual herb “Borage” and the perennial “Beebalm” (Monarda) are especially good for this purpose. Because their flowering times coincide with those of many fruit trees, marigolds, pansies, spurge, trollius, and arabis are the best choices.

  • The trees are of the same variety.

Clones will not pollinate each other; for example, a Norland apple tree cannot pollinate another Norland apple tree.

Grapes (Vitis)

Grapes are self-pollinating. Regular pruning is essential for fruit production. To do this, remove all suckers from the base of stems after the end of June. Remove ends of canes two to three leaves past the last fruit cluster. Remove all non-producing canes.

Blueberries (Vaccinium)

Blueberries are self-pollinating, but two or more varieties that bloom at the same time will result in better yields and larger berries.

Currants and Gooseberries (Ribes)

Currants and gooseberries are self-pollinating. Excellent fruit production can be obtained with just one plant. If currants are grown near gooseberries or josta berries however, yields can be even better!

Black currants perform better when different cultivars are grown together. Note that black currants will not cross with red or white currants; the reverse is also true.

Josta berries (Ribes)

Josta berries are a cross between gooseberries and blackberries. Two or more bushes are required to ensure fruit production. Josta berries will cross-pollinate with gooseberries or currants.

Strawberries, Raspberries, Goji Berries and Saskatoons (Fragaria, Rubus, Lycium and Amelanchier)

Strawberries, raspberries, goji berries and saskatoons are all self-pollinating.

Kiwi Fruit (Actinidia)

Both male and female plants are required to produce fruit. You need at least one of each plant, but a male can cross-pollinate up to 8 females. Plants must be 2 to 3 years old before they will produce fruit.

Haskap (Lonicera)

Like apples, Haskaps require 2 genetically different varieties to produce both the largest and highest quantity of fruit – both will produce. For ‘Borealis’, ‘Tundra’ & ‘Indigo Gem’ use ‘Polar Jewel’/ ‘Berry Blue’™ or ‘Honeybee’.

A photo has been circulating for a while that suggests our grocery stores will look like this in a world without bees. Is that true? Will our food choices be radically limited, come the future Beepocalypse?

We already know what raising fruit without honey bees looks like. In a remote area in China, humans pollinate 100% of fruit trees by hand. Armed with pollen-loaded paintbrushes and cigarette filters, people swarm around pear and apple trees in spring. The reason why they hand pollinate is not what you think, though. Honey bees are still present in these areas of hand pollination, and many fruit growers also keep bees for honey.

Hand Pollination; Image from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Nepal

Hand pollination in China has as much to do with economics and fruit biology as it does with bees. In the early 1990s, farmers of marginal lands in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region–an area spanning parts of Nepal, China, Pakistan, and India–realized that apples could be a major cash crop. Their land was mountainous and hard to farm, so tree fruits were ideally suited to the region. A major shift occurred from subsistence farming to fruit crops. The payoffs were large – in some areas, farmers quadrupled their income. Now they had cash on hand to send kids to school and build roads. Quality of life improved.

With that early success, farmers found that certain varieties of apples and pears sold better than others. As new orchards went in, more and more of the same cultivars of apples were planted. And that is when things started to go wrong.

Delicious plant genitals

A fruit is a plant ovary with embryos (seeds) inside. It’s how plants reproduce. Bees and other pollinators serve as plant sexual surrogates by spreading pollen (plant sperm!) around to flower ovaries. A flower has to be pollinated to “set fruit” or begin to create the juicy ovaries that will become apples.

Some fruits are self-pollinating, and can fertilize themselves without any bees involved. The Navel Oranges seen in the photo at the top are a good example of a fruit that can self-pollinate. Most fruit trees – pears and apples in particular – are self-sterile for their own pollen. If you plant all Royal Delicious apples, for example, you won’t get fruit, with or without bees. Just as we don’t often marry our cousins, apple and pear trees require cross-pollination with “pollinizer varieties” that are not closely related to produce a full crop of fruit.

Clearing marginal lands for agriculture destroyed nesting and food resources native pollinator species needed. The problem with insects as commercial pollinators is that they can’t just appear for 2 weeks, pollinate your plants, and disappear. They have to have something to eat the rest of the year, and a place to live. Clearing mountain forests got rid of habitat that pollinators needed.

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Farmers planting new trees in their orchards also made a logical economic choice: plant just tree varieties that make marketable fruit. The consequences of that choice, though, were that fruit set was radically reduced. Because the trees planted were the same variety, they were self-sterile.

Farmers did plant a few of what are called “pollinizer” trees–trees that serve as pollen donors. Pollinizer varieties usually don’t have pretty fruit, which means that farmers give up potential income when they plant them. The recommended mix of fruiting trees and pollinizer trees in orchards is 70:30 for proper fruit set. In most fruit orchards in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, less than 10% of the trees were pollinizer varieties in the late 1990s. There just wasn’t enough plant sperm to go around.

To make things even more complicated, a farmer can’t just randomly pick two different kinds of apple or pear trees and have them be cross-fertile. (This compatibility matrix gives you a sense of just how complex choosing two pear cultivars to grow can be.) A pollinizer variety also must bloom at the same time as your fruit variety–pollen needs to be used while it is fresh, and can’t be stored. So even with plenty of bees, fruit production was very low, and in some areas crops failed completely.

Another perfectly sensible economic decision made by farmers was to spray pesticides often to have better looking fruit, which got a higher price. Just as in cultivar selection, this had unforeseen biological consequences. Poor pollination due to pollen incompatibility was made worse by killing off pollinating insects.

In 1999, the problem of poor fruit set was widespread throughout the Hindu Kush regions of Nepal, China, Pakistan, and India. Hand pollination was widely practiced through the entire region. However, by 2011, only apple growers in the Maoxian region of China were still hand pollinating.

What was different about China that made hand pollination persist?

In Nepal, India, and Pakistan, government and non-governmental organizations provided support to help promote using native pollinator species, as well as provided training and education about managing pollination. Planting of native host trees that provided nectar to support colonies through the harvest year was encouraged. Bees are now an important part of local economies, and hand pollination is rare.

In China, officials promoted and offered training in hand pollination, rather than offering information about native pollinators. That’s not the reason hand pollination persisted, though – 100% of apple crops in the Maoxian region are pollinated by hand because it makes economic sense. By using humans as pollinators, the number of pollenizer trees that have to be planted can be minimized, and valuable land isn’t used up for non-productive trees.

Fruit set is much higher with human pollinators – every flower is fully pollinated and can become fruit. A person can pollinate 5–10 trees a day, depending on the size of the trees. In 2010, farmers paid their human pollinators US $12–19/person/day, if they pay them at all. There is a social benefit of having your neighbors help pollinate your orchard, and reciprocating in kind.

The cost of renting a Maoxian bee colony for pollination in 2010 was $46.88/day. Why is renting a hive so expensive? Economics tells us that scarcity should drive prices up, but honey bees are still present. In fact, up to 50% of the fruit farmers surveyed in the Maoxian region in 2011 also kept honey bees. Farmers in this region of China are uninformed about the effects of pesticides on bees–half of apple farmers surveyed did not know that pesticides would kill bees. The Maoxian region also sprays pesticides more often than other regions where pollinators have recovered. Maoxian beekeepers will not rent their hives to orchards at anything less than a premium price, since pesticide sprays continue during bloom season and they risk losing their entire hive.

One last additional factor is making things difficult for farmers: Global Climate Change. Frequent rains, fluctuating temperatures, and cloudy weather affect the number of days that plants flower and the times that pollinators can fly. Changes in flowering time also means that fruit trees and their local pollinators may not be in sync, which makes a mismatch between pollinator and plant timing more likely in an already strained system. Humans are more effective pollinators than insects under adverse conditions.

What can North Americans learn from China’s pollination failure?

A demonstration of hand pollination in California, 1941. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives. A demonstration of hand pollination in California, 1941. Cherimoya is still hand pollinated today in California, since its native pollinators are back in Peru. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.

The story of hand pollination in China illustrates what a failure to understand ecosystem services looks like. Ecosystem services are things the earth does for us for free: oxygen is produced; water is filtered; and plants are pollinated. When parts of an ecosystem are removed, it stops functioning the way it has in the past. Agriculture is an ecosystem, even if it’s not a very diverse one.

Some of our foods are hand pollinated right now; cherimoya and vanilla are examples. They are hand pollinated because their specially-adapted native pollinators are missing, and honey bees can’t pick up the slack.

Problems with bees, agriculture, and pollination are deeply related to issues of habitat loss and basic plant biology. Pesticides are a problem in bee deaths–for all bees, not just honey bees. But just getting rid of all pesticides will not solve our bee problems, and pesticides are only part of the story of human pollination.

While the chance of honey bees (Apis mellifera or Apis cerana) going extinct is pretty much nil, native bees and other pollinators are threatened. Incredible losses in native bee diversity are happening–in one study, 50% of Midwestern native bee species disappeared over a 100 year period. When scientists study who does pollination, it turns out honey bees are… kind of slackers. In a study of 41 different crop systems worldwide, only 14% had yield increases with honey bees present. Who did all the pollination? Native bees and other insects.

Is China’s experience a picture of our future without bees? Probably not. But preserving our pollinators and pollinator habitat will be critical to keeping our food choices diverse and affordable in the future. Consider planting some food for bees, or setting aside nesting space. Check out this huge resource center for North American plant lists, nesting guides, and more.

candidate for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection

. Photo ©Christy Stewart

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