Baldwin apple: origin, cultivation & uses


As a child, I played every day in the garden in front of my house in my home town of Rheinlandpflanz. There, my interest in nature grew, as did my aspirations to become a natural scientist. I now study horticultural phytotechnology and am currently writing my bachelor’s thesis on the topic of crop protection in orchards. Since living Berlin, I have become particularly interested in improving the quality of life in cities with the help of plants.

Favourite fruit: figs, passion fruit, berries, limes and oranges.
Favourite vegetables: potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, pickles, lamb’s lettuce and rocket.

The ‘Baldwin’ apple is a very late variety with a good balance of sweetness and acidity. The trees produce regular yields with low demands on soil and climate.

Close-up of Baldwin apples
Still on the tree, ‘Baldwin’ apples look scrumptious [Photo: Greg Kushmerek/]

Its special taste with consistent quality made the ‘Baldwin’ apple a popular variety in North America and later in Europe too. However, other apple varieties, such as ‘Red Delicious’, did better on the market. Over the years, ‘Baldwin’ apple trees were pushed out of the market. Today, they are only sporadically cultivated in private gardens and as such, ‘Baldwin’ apple trees are now considered endangered.

The ‘Baldwin’ apple at a glance:

Synonyms‘Calville Butter', 'Felch', 'Late Baldwin', 'Pecker', 'Red Baldwin's Pippin', 'Steele's Red Winter', and 'Woodpecker’
FruitMedium to large, pale-yellow skin with red colouring on the sunny side and white stippling
TasteSweetly aromatic, reminiscent of sweet wine and roses
YieldRegular, early and rich, alternating
Harvest timeFrom October/November
Eating ripenessDecember
Shelf lifeGood shelf life over winter
GrowthMedium to strong, medium to large trees
ClimateUndemanding of soil and climate, ideally grown in an open location on a south-facing slope, frost-hardy
Diseases and pestsSusceptible to Marssonina apple blotch disease, sooty blotch disease, powdery mildew, codling moth, tad susceptible to bruising

Origin and history

The ‘Baldwin’ apple originated in Massachusetts, USA. In 1847, the Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste stated that the ‘Baldwin’ apple was first found and described around 1740 on the farm of Mr. Butters.

The apple was first named ‘Butters Apple’ after him. Over the years, Mr. Butters observed that his tree was intensively frequented by woodpeckers, whereupon he christened it ‘Butters Woodpecker Apple’. Eventually, Colonel Baldwin marketed the apple under his name. Today, a monument stands on the spot where Mr. Butters’ tree once stood hundreds of years ago.

Woodpecker on a tree branch
Apple trees offer woodpeckers shelter and food [Photo: Piotr Grzempowski/]

‘Baldwin’ taste and properties

The ‘Baldwin’ variety produces medium to large fruits, averaging 6 to 8cm in diameter. They can be round, partly conical or slightly flat. The skin is fine and smooth. Their base colour is pale yellow but, on the side facing the sun, a red overcolour develops. The surface is dotted with visible white-yellow lenticels. The calyx cavity has fine folds and is closed. The stalk is long, and the stalk cavity is slightly russet.

The flesh is green-yellow, crunchy and juicy. It is characterised by a mild acidity in combination with a vinous sweetness and a light rose-like aroma. These are the characteristics that made the ‘Baldwin’ apple popular in its heyday. The core is faintly indicated with large open compartments

Special features in cultivation and care

‘Baldwin’ has a medium to strong growth and consistently produces a regular yield, but it is prone to alternate or biennial bearing. This variety is suitable for large-scale cultivation, for example in orchards. The reason for this is its strong growth, its preference for sites open to the wind and its tendency to alternate bearing.

For those who prefer to tame the strong growing varieties, ‘Baldwin’ apple trees can be grafted with weak-growing rootstocks. The resulting smaller trees can be better treated with plant protection products. Pruning is also simplified.

‘Baldwin’ apple tree pruning should be carried out cautiously, as the tree may react with strong shoot formation. Additionally, summer pruning is more advisable because winter pruning encourages biennial bearing.

Tip: biennial or alternate bearing refers to fluctuation in yield from year to year. Pome fruits especially, apples and pears, are prone to alternate bearing, where they bear lots of fruit one year and less the next year. The reasons can be manifold, lying in genetics, wrong choice of location or care. Radical pruning and late frosts can trigger biennial bearing.

Apple tree blossoms with snow
Late frosts trigger alternate bearing in ‘Baldwin’ apples [Photo: Evgenii Predybailo/]

‘Baldwin’ blossoms develop around mid-May but are not self-fertile. The blossoms also will not pollinate other varieties; as such, you will need to plant two pollination partners nearby that are different varieties to support the cross pollination of each other as well as the ‘Baldwin’. Suitable varieties for pollinating the ‘Baldwin’ are: ‘Baumann’s Reinette’, ‘Brown’s’ ‘Cortland’, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, ’Elstar’,‘Golden Delicious’, ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Jonathan’, ‘McIntosh’, ‘Northern Spy’ or generally equally early-flowering varieties.

Tip: the British apple variety ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ is an excellent pollinator because of its similar location requirements.

Apples hanging from a branch
The apple variety ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ is suitable for cross pollination with the ‘Baldwin’ apple [Photo: photocosmos1/]

The ‘Baldwin’ apple is long-lived and does not have extremely high demands for the location. However, it does develop a more intense aroma on a south-facing slope with a viticultural climate and with sufficiently healthy soil. These conditions protect it from disease outbreaks. ‘Baldwin’ apple trees are susceptible to some diseases and pests.

Problematic pathogens include codling moths (Cydia pomonella) and the two fungal diseases marssonina (Diplocarpon mali) and powdery mildew (Podosphaera leucotricha). Marssonina and powdery mildew strike when there is prolonged high humidity − the risk of infection is high during humid summers and in places that are windless and shaded in the morning. Such unfavourable conditions are more often found in small gardens and backyards. On the other hand, the risk of infection is lower in fields or meadows that are open to the wind. To prevent fungal diseases in unfavourable locations, regularly thin out the crown to open it up to the wind − this helps the tree to dry more quickly. Check out our expert tips on pruning apple trees.

Leaf with Marssonina apple blotches
Dark spots without a fixed geometric shape are characteristic of Marssonina [Photo: lanaid12/]

In professional cultivation, varieties that are resistant to diseases and pests are preferred, but in a suitable location, the cultivation of the ‘Baldwin’ apple is possible in both private and professional sectors.

Cultivation and care at a glance:

  • In meadows: open to the wind
  • In the garden: grafted on low-growing rootstocks and with regular summer pruning
  • Modest site requirements: open to wind; warm locations are helpful against disease, infestation and senescence
Apple tree in a meadow
An open meadow is often more suitable as a location for ‘Baldwin’ apple trees than the garden [Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/]

Harvest and use of ‘Baldwin’ apples

The apple variety ‘Baldwin’ is a winter storage apple. The fruits can be harvested for storage beginning in October. By the time December rolls around, they are ripe enough to be eaten directly from the tree. The apples can be stored in a cool, humid place and enjoyed until March. ‘Baldwin’ apples can be used in many ways − they are particularly suitable for making juice or cider. They are also excellent in cakes or as traditional dessert apples.

A pitcher of apple juice
‘Baldwin’ apples make delicious juice [Photo: teatian/]
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