The Q&A Archives: What is a spur-type apple tree?

Question: I want to purchase apple trees this spring, and I've come across the term spur type in the variety descriptions. What are they and are they better than other varieties? Robert Plummer Augusta, MI

Answer: Spurs are very short branches that end in a flower bud and don't send out shoots. They elongate only a fraction of an inch each year and produce more blossoms each season. Many apples make at least a few spurs, but spur type varieties have lots of them, says Jerry Hull, a fruit specialist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Spurred varieties make less shoot growth, and so they require less pruning, take less space and yield more than other varieties. The tendency to make spurs varies widely. Red Delicious is a natural 'spurry' tree. Spur type trees began to be developed commercially more than 20 years ago, and this trait has been bred into many modern varieties. Almost all the McIntosh types available today have an abundance of spurs, explains Hull.

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