Behind the Scenes

by Andrew Thompson

Rare Fruit Society, a review of progress

What is happening behind-the-scenes in the Rare Fruit Society? As a society we encourage the propagation and preservation of rare at and unusual plants, probably each and everyone is doing this in some way, but what is the society achieving as a whole organisation?

Seed merchants and nurseries are steering away from open pollinated plants and the older varieties which haven’t a plant patent. It is up to groups like the Rare Fruit Society to preserve these plants for their wider attributes than just marketability.

Rescue efforts

In recent years we have rescued plants from destruction – Research programs are dollar dependent so if something does not generate the money needed it is axed, the Loxton fig collection was one such example. Our society rescued most of these fig varieties before the bulldozers moved in.

Heritage collections

In the past few years apple and pear varieties have been collected with much of this bud-wood being made available during our July grafting sessions. As part of this preservation project for heritage apple varieties in South Australia we have been photographing the apple varieties and endeavouring to eventually have descriptions of all these apples and also pears. Initially this doesn’t sound like a huge task until you realise that we already have approximately 200 varieties of apples and 30 plus varieties of pears. We are just starting to embark on a plum and apricot collection. We record our grateful thanks to Wicks Nurseries for major assistance in this project.

In an effort to consolidate these collections we encourage everyone in the society to record names of varieties in their own collection. A number of the present and past committee members have started this task and tended to be surprised when we actually write down what we have. Besides recording the collections of heritage species this is part of an “insurance policy” to have multiple copies of each variety in different locations.

Subtropical and climate databank

The other aim and high priority is to be able to create a record of which subtropicals can be grown the various climate regions around South Australia. For example citrus trees are subtropical and most regions people can grow at least some varieties. Mangoes can be subtropical, who has a mango in the ground and fruiting? The creation and compiling of this information is going to take some time however, and we need to be mindful of members privacy and security. Members could use this information to great advantage, we need not “reinvent the wheel” but learn from each other as to what fruit may flourish where. We can still experiment with different varieties and methods of cultivation to extend our range of fruit. Watch out for more information on the climatic databank.

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