How do you like limbertwigs (e.g., taste, keeping ability)?

I have a fascination with the limbertwigs. I am thinking about ordering VIctoria Limbertwig scions for my first attempt at grafting this spring. This variety seems highly rated by both Tom Burford and Lee Calhoun.

Is there any particularly variety of this family that you would recommend from first-hand experience?

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There isn’t a Limbertwig that I’ve tried that I don’t like. Victoria has been the slowest, so far, to produce larger sized fruits. (The first year fruits were crab apple sized.) I like Black LT, and Caney Fork best so far for size, taste, and texture. Victoria tends to throw out a lot of fruiting spurs early in life. My four year old tree is almost completely covered, and I have very little scionwood.

I have tasted three: Black, Myers Royal and Brushy Mtn. So far Black LT is my favorite. This year I should also get to taste Caney Fork, Red Royal, Kentucky, possibly Slemp. The late Tim Hensley suspected Slemp LT was actually either Red LT or Royal LT but he didn’t live long enough to grow it out to compare. I will be able to compare Slemp with Royal in a couple years.


I have only fruited Black and Meyers Royal. Both are good but I prefer Black.


I, and @hambone, have sampled some Brushy Mtn from Reed Valley Orchard in Paris, KY. When I initially tried them right off the tree, they were very tart and hard, with a little sweetness. It was similar to the Arkansas Black I sampled off the tree.

After letting them sit for a couple months or so, they are still pretty firm, not so tart, and have developed some sweetness and a subtle spiciness. I still have maybe a couple dozen left, and assume they’ll get a bit more sweeter. In comparison, the Ark Black I’ve kept have not really improved in flavor, and the skin has developed what seems a ‘greasy’ feel to it.

A pleasant apple, but not as good as some others that I’ve tried this year.

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Update on Brushy Mountain Limbertwig taste. I’m waiting for the taste of BMLT to improve over time in storage but it’s not happening for me. Here at year’s end it’s still firm, dense which are both fine with me but there’s just not much taste. A very mild sweetness that is possibly the faintest, weakest taste of any apple I ever ate. Or my taste buds have dimmed but I don’t think so.

Not objectionable, just not much there, for me at least. I’ll try again in another month but at this point plan to graft over to other must have rarities. Maybe it excels when cooked, have not checked.


@figgrower Fig: Please talk to me about cooking with Black or Caney Fork Limbertwig. Either of them good for pie or baking? I’m re-doing a friend’s big old tree and she wants cookers, bakers, pie apples. Have you had a Magnum Bonum pie? Tom Burford raves about it. Thanks for any info.


Black Limbertwig is frequently used for a sauce apple. It would tend to break down in a pie. So far, I haven’t tried cooking with Caney Fork. I haven’;t tried Magnum Bonum. Bramley’s Seedling, Annie Elizabeth are good for cooking, but not that good fresh. You may want to check out stephen hayes on you tube. This link might also help:


Thanks Fig, helps me a lot. I just got an email from Annie Black at Hidden Springs Nursery in TN who says by far the best pie she’s ever tasted was made with Horse. From written descriptions I can’t tell if Horse is a blight magnet or not- it may just tolerate blight well. Any Horse lovers out there?

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I had a Magnum Bonum ( for about 3+ years) and it was a constant battle with CAR. I took it out last fall. I was tired of having that sickly looking tree. I had a couple of years of horrible rain in the spring. I could not keep the sprays on long enough. If you try it I hope you have a LOT better luck.
I am going to try a Horse apple this spring. It will be a few years before I can tell if it was worth it or not. A lot of areas have some sort of apple called “Horse”. It may depend on what version/area you get it from or they may all be the same version. It was a very widely used apple for so many uses. I figure I’d give it a shot.

Yikes. My Magnum Bonum just produced its first spur wood.

I thought my property was isolated from Eastern Redcedars, but I just spotted a few about a mile down the road. Blast!

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Matt- You should be fine with that distance, especially if the cedars are not upwind from you. I get impression that risk of rust decreases exponentially with distance to cedars. I knew MB was susceptible but this sounds really bad like Goldrush. How on earth did Magnum Bonum survive in the south that’s riddled with Red Cedar? Maybe there are regions with no or few Red Cedar??? Or the orchard regions may have outlawed Red Cedar.

@MikeC Maybe Magnum Bonum is one of those nostalgia apples that have more cultural value than culinary. Really glad you reported on your trouble with MB, so important to spread info especially on these old varieties. How close were your Red Cedars to your apple trees?

I made the mistake of grafting MB on one large stump in a big tree makeover. Discovered the hard way that Magnum Bonum grows very, very, very slowly. The last variety you want to heal a big stump. I had to re-saw and graft a vigorous grower.

Friend Jason Bowen at Horne Creek Preservation Farm tells me MB is a good apple, but not a great one. Please report back on your experience with Horse. A friend in Mississippi calls it a “spitter” but other places say some people like to eat it fresh. Tom Burford does not list dessert as one of its uses. Annie Black at Hidden Springs Nursery TN told me the best apple pie she has ever had was from Horse picked pre-ripe.

There are no red cedars that I can see around on my neighbors properties. I know I have no cedars on my acres. Of course who knows what is over in the housing plat across the street and new ones behind me? I can only see the houses across the street facing me. As much crazy high winds we get it could be anywhere. That may have been another issue for it looking so sickly. It is such a slow grower. It was like it was just sitting there in the ground. Like it was runted.
The Horse apple is a “spitter” for the most part except when it is at its peak ripeness. Still then it is a tart apple, interesting flavor but not a “spitter” at that time. You just have to watch the ripening closely.
Most of the people back in the day used it for more of an all purpose apple. That is why the Horse apple was so widely grown. They made a lot of vinegar out of it. Cooking, drying, cider, and jelly. Very good jelly. My grandmother made a lot of jelly and vinegar using Horse apples. She made wonderful apple butter but I’m not sure if she used Horse apples exclusively for that. I never remember her using the Horse for any regular apple pies or fried apple hand pies. ( getting hungry here!!!) I’ll try some Horse apples when I get some to use. I used to be a baker so I would always make sure to use three different apples in the pies I made. I wish I had some of these heirloom apples to use in the pies and not the ones I had to buy in the stores.

Did Horse jelly taste different or better than other jelly?

It was better. Had more dark amber color and had a hint of tartness not like in other apple jelly. If you’ve eaten apple jelly you know that little tart after taste you get with it that you do not get with apple butter. I knew what apple jelly was made from the Horse apples by looking at it on her shelf. If I had a chance to pick one out to eat I’d choose the darker colored Horse apple jelly.

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I have Magnum Bonum on EMLA.111 from Big Horse Creek. It is growing well enough-- straight up. It doubled in height the first year after transplant and is now 5 feet tall-- poised for another season of growth.

My notes on Magnum Bonum paraphrased from various sources:

Magnum Bonum. Meaning “the great good.” Rust susceptible, but otherwise ironclad against other diseases. Southern apple. Cold hardy. Flesh tender, but crisp, aromatic, juicy-- mild fine subacid flavor. Ripens in Honeycrisp season and might serve as a backstop if Honeycrisp falters with fireblight or bitter pit. Precocious and productive. Grown by old nurseries as far north as Maryland. Was sold for high prices in Rappahannock County, Virginia in the 1920s (the “Gay Happy Twenties” when Americans still had lots of money to burn… before the Great Depression). In 2015, Scott Smith got his first fruits-- says nicely balanced sweet/savory (nutty?) flavor. No major disease trouble as of yet on this one in Balto.


I should add that my tree was ripening later than the standard descriptions, and the wood was from Botner who was somewhat unreliable. So, I have a nice apple I want to keep, but not 100% sure its Magnum Bonum.

I had some Botner scion wood with the same issues. Some I have no idea what trees they actually are. Glad I am not the only one that had run into that as well.

Matt- Thanks for info. Based on my experience with Bonum it makes sense to me that M111 or even standard roots would work well to give it some oomph.

I still look forward to that Magnum Bonum pie that Tom Burford assures “will be etched in your memory forever.”

It makes sense yours ripened later. We are just north of where it was once popular.

Do yours have that deep dark red color with prominent lenticels like in the photo from Big Horse?

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