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Legendary Tree to be Planted at Sinks Canyon Center Orchard

May 3, 2017 by Laura Phagan

Red apples in wooden barrels

It was in the early 1990’s that Scott Skogerboe, chief propagator at the Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery in Fort Collins, Colorado had an idea to track down a legend. After rigorous research he was able to find the last tree from the legend of Johnny Appleseed.

The variety of tree, called the Rambo, was propagated from a tree traced back to a farm in Nova, Ohio. The tree was grown from a seed given to the farmer by John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, about 170 years ago. The tree had been dead for nearly 30 years when Skogerboe found it but a group of schoolchildren who were on a fieldtrip in 1960’s had taken scionwood from the tree which led Skogerboe to a living tree that had been grafted from the scionwood. After he received cuttings from the tree Skogerboe was able to propagate his own Johnny Appleseed tree.

It was during the Garden Expo in Lander where Skogerboe, who was a speaker, announced that he would donate a Johnny Appleseed sapling to CWC’s orchard.

I was stunned. It was such a great surprise. ”

Joanne Slingerland, outreach coordinator and success coach at Central Wyoming College Lander.

As part of the restoration efforts of the historic apple orchard at CWC’s Sinks Canyon Center, a volunteer tree planting day has been set for May 6 where a variety of heirloom apple and other fruit trees will be planted along with the Johnny Appleseed tree. The heirloom varieties to be planted on Saturday include six trees grafted from existing trees that were planted in the early 1900’s.

Once the trees are established and growing well people will be able to collect scionwood and propagate their own heirloom apple trees, including schionwood from the Johnny Appleseed tree.

“Individuals interested in this process can contact CWC Lander for information about collecting scions,” Slingerland said.

Also as part of the restoration process a DNA analysis will be conducted to identify each tree. Leaf material will be sent in May to Dr. Steve Miller and his team at the University of Wyoming who are undertaking the identification process, Slingerland said. The identified varieties will provide an important database to help in the preservation of the heirloom genetics.

“These trees have proven their hardiness in Wyoming’s harsh climate so it makes sense for individuals wanting to plan apple tree to propagate trees from these known varieties,” Slingerland said.

The planting of the tree will take place at the Sinks Canyon Center orchard on May 6 at 9am.

The Sinks Canyon Center orchard is in itself a great historical and agricultural asset for our community,” said Dr. Brad Tyndall, CWC president. “The Johnny Appleseed tree puts a diamond on the ring.”