Disease resistance: Liberty vs. Freedom apples


When did you speak to Burford? On the list I have which he made back in '03, he didn’t distinguish between Winesaps beyond writing “old strain”. His entire list of FB resistant apples include Arkansas Black, Ben Davis,Black Twig, Detroit Red, Empire, Fameuse, Grimes Golden, Kidd’s Orange Red, King David, Kinnard’s Choice, Liberty, Maiden Blush, Macintosh, Smokehouse, Spartan, Spigold, Stayman, Summer Rambo, Virginia Beauty, Wickson Crab and Winesap.



Spoke with him about 4 years ago at a seminar held at Vintage Virginia Apples, just outside of Charlottesville VA. Its actually Lee Calhoon and David Vernon that draw the distinction between the two Winesaps Lee in his book “Old Southern Apples” and David in his catalog of apple trees for Century Farm Orchards.

On another note: A well know family of Apple/Peach growers with the last name Haight moved to my area of NC from Westchester County about 30 years ago. They sold their orchard in NY to get away from the high taxes. Not many orchards in my area - but these folks grow great peaches/apples. Any chance they are related to you?


No, but I know their orchard site well and people often ask me that- but the T at the end changes everything.

Thanks for the info about Virginia Winesap. How does it taste?

The Vintage Apple people were and probably still are associated with NAFEX. I was there years back at a NAFEX annual meeting. They seemed very nice people. That was the first time I met Burford as well.


I much prefer the taste of Stayman compared to either one of the Winesaps, but I like the Va Winesap better the the Old Fashion Winesap. I rate the taste of bothWinesap as OK, but not great

The people for Vintage Virginia Apples now have a big presence in the hard cider business, I believe they are called Albemarle Cider Works and they are located not too far from Monticello, which has got to help

Burford and a fellow from Penn State taught the 1 day class in Apple Orchard Production when I attended a few years back. I noticed Burford indicated Summer Rambo had a high degree of FB tolerance. I found it be be highly susceptible, similar to Lodi. I removed all of them along with all of my Lodi.


Winesap gets a nice flavor here, but ripens in cooler weather so that may help. Stayman is similar but sweeter. They both are great producers.


Alan writes thusly:

I have a list of varieties evaluated by Tom Burford (a well known apple guru with decades of experience in VA) for FB resistance and it is interesting how his experience does not coincide with Purdue’s chart.
Burford suggests “old strain” Stayman is resistant, for instance, and Purdue calls it susceptible. I only mention this to suggest that even in areas with high FB potential, cultivars considered susceptible may turn out to be OK for someone wanting to experiment. Burford also suggests resistance in old strain Winesap which, on this thread, was said to be false where wood I had provided of this strain was severely struck.

Over the years, Ed Fackler,among others have come to believe their are different strains of fireblight. That may explain the regional results.

For example,in pears,I simply have not been able to keep Magness alive,fire blight claims it all the time,which is rather shocking but blight susceptible varieties chug along oblivious right next to it.

the fluffy one


Thanks everyone for the excellent post on this topic.


I purchased my Liberties when I just started growing and when reading about them had visions of perfect apples without spraying. The reality is much different and if I could go back would not have planted three of them. I would not want a lot of them because they throw out a lot of wood and are more difficult to prune especially for an amateur. Just from postings I think maybe Liberty is a better Apple I sure like it and appreciate it more often than less. One thing I think about disease resistant trees is if I have a year that for some unforeseen reason I don’t spray I still may get a few good apples from my little orchard.


John, I agree with everything you said. Liberty is not the ideal tree for the new pruner; three Liberties will produce a lot of fruit!

My only spray challenge with mine has been codling moth. Spinosad, and perhaps occassional early applications of Once and Done, have been very successful at stopping them. Now and then I’ll get a little powdery mildew, but I can just nip it out or hit it with a little sulfer.

My Liberties from the middle of September are still holding up pretty well, to my surprise (and delight!)


That’s amazing that yours are still in good shape. That will be my next job next year is storing more apples.


Another possible explanation – and this is pure speculation on my part, based entirely on limited observations with other species – is simply timing. For example, I suspect Amelanchier alnifolia isn’t really any less susceptible to cedar rust than Amelanchier canadensis, but it blooms substantially later, and I think that means it’s at a less susceptible stage of growth when the spores are most abundant. But the right timing to somewhat avoid cedar rust here might be the wrong timing in another part of the country. Weather may also have something to do with it. Blooming later also means that the weather is generally warmer, days are longer, sun is higher in the sky, etc. at each comparative stage of growth, and perhaps that could help. Those same kind of differences could potentially help or hurt any species with any disease problem. I imagine a big difference between the South and the Northeast is how quickly summer comes when it finally does come in the Northeast. That could mean very different weather through the early stages of growth that follow. I suspect the very inconsistent reports I hear about Asian pear susceptibility to fireblight may have a lot to do with these kind of differences having to do with weather, day length, etc. when trees are in bloom (which from my very limited experience and understanding seems to be when fireblight really gets going on Asian pears in the years when it does.) That’s all just a lot of speculation on my part, but I think it’s one possible explanation of apparent differences in disease “resistance.” If differences in observed disease “resistance” coincided with extremes of bloom time (early/late), for example, I think that would indicate that a variety might be avoiding disease pressure more than it’s standing up to/resisting disease pressure.


I think much the same way, but again, just a lot of speculation.

There’s was some similar discussion on the “old” (Garden Web pre-Houzz) forum and my recollection is that some of the same ideas were brought up then. Might be useful if anybody happens to have that bookmarked or saved to link to it.


I’m actually surprised to hear that Liberty is such a vigorous grower (throwing a lot of wood) as mine has been in the ground 4-5 years and I can still reach the top.

Got fruit these past couple years and it was good. Any chance grafting onto it may confer some of that disease resistance? (Wishful thinking)



I think even Alan has mentioned that Liberty is hard to tame pruning wise. I was just looking at mine today with no leaves and wished someone near me was a pro and could prune with me.


Wishful thinking Scott? Yeah, I think so. But I stand to be corrected, and I will observe that at least if you graft to Liberty with say, a Wealthy, which is not particularly FB resistant, and the Wealthy scion gets FB, it is less likely to impact the entire tree.

I always wish I had a good pro to train my Liberty -but no matter what I do it keeps churning out lots of apples, most of them purty dern good, to my taste. I think that very rigorous pruning to either a central leader or a vase will work well, but the tree will keep throwing off new growth and it might go any where it likes. New shoots often spur up quickly and then curl hither and thither.

I think that it’s real easy to let this tree get too spurry. Seems like I have to thin 90% or each crop off once, and then come back and thin 90% off what’s left. In other words, about 99% of the fruit set goes in the trash, and the tree’s still loaded. I haven’t learned yet how to control that, but I’m getting there.

I have lots of thoughts on how to overcome this tree’s nature, but I’ll consider a new thread on that (after a lot more thought!)


I have Liberty on M27. It’s never grown above 4 or 5 feet. I knew nothing about growing apples when I bought it. Not that I know a lot now. My little Liberty always blooms a lot, the fruits need thinning each year, and it always produces a few bowls of fruit. I would like to start a new one on a more vigorous rootstock. It has never had fireblight or scab, even though my nearby Jonagold and Golden Delicious have been susceptible.

M27 is too dwarfing for Liberty in my hands. That’s my only complaint. I have a 3-variety graft on M106 that is still young. Maybe those 3 need a friend.


I suspect you are right, and this sounds like something that should be researched to be confirmed or rejected.

The fireblight prediction models all consider the weather. Fireblight strikes here have been troublesome when they hit during bloom, seeming to jump from one cluster to the next faster than I can prune them out, though the “jumping” may not be what’s really going on. Later season strikes are rare, and easily removed.


@haldog @cousinfloyd I’ve researched fireblight a lot and found in many cases it’s the insects, weather , tree susceptibility that work together to make the perfect fireblight storm. The bacteria gets to the trees somehow which is birds, insects etc especially pollinators. When the 17 year cicada hit look out they hit during perfect weather for fireblight this year and brought it from tree to tree as they cut into the susceptible new growth during their breeding season. The fireblight bacteria must be present which is due to several factors such as location, susceptible varieties in the area that are hosting the disease etc. Fireblight only effects fruit trees that have tissue growing which means in the winter you cant get it here so we have a great pruning window. It also means blooming is very dangerous because the tree has high susceptibility as the pears forming from the bloom grow rapidly so that tissue is easily infected. Watch temperatures because when they reach 65° F and there is 65% humidity = perfect fireblight conditions. Cousinfloyd & Haldog you hit the nail on the head because fireblight has everything to do with variety, weather and day length which coincides with growth. This is an interesting and informative article on fireblight http://www.caf.wvu.edu/kearneysville/disease_descriptions/omblight.html


Here’s my review of Liberty- it is only moderately vigorous but it tends to develop oversized scaffolds and is very reluctant to produce adequate secondary and tertiary branching. The inadequately branched scaffolds are difficult to steer straight so it it not in any way cooperative in producing a nice balanced tree with a lot of small wood carried by the scaffolds.

It is amazing that even with all this inefficiency of wood it is extremely productive almost every year. I should hire a hypnotist to convince me that it is a great eating apple, but to me, it is just not very interesting.

Cornell was looking for Macintosh replacements in its DR program and Liberty can keep better in storage than Mac, but it just doesn’t have the Mac aroma or special crunch straight off the tree. Judging from reviews and experience after hot summers, unlike Mac, Liberty improves in hotter weather than New England usually provides.


So, Alan, I have 5 Liberties on EMLA 7 in the ground for 2 years after planting as 1-yr whips. First summer they didn’t top-grow much, but last summer they bulked up the main stem and put on 2-3 feet of new growth. How would you prune them to have sturdy fruitful 12’ trees? I am in high desert, zone 6B-7A. Thanks. Doug