No flowers on some apple trees

Up at 8300’ we are usually pretty late at getting the orchard starting in the spring. This year we are running almost a month behind our usual late start, apples and pears just leafing out now and starting to show flower buds but the flowers have not opened yet, at least most of the trees. Four apple trees which typically bear fruit very well even after bad winters and the like, are showing very few flower buds this year. They are two Lodi and two Summer Treat apples trees; both 20+ years old and decent sized (8"+ diam trunks).

I am not surprised that some trees would not be flowering much, last year was a really hard one and this winter was very dry for the first 4 or so months. What is surprising is that these particular trees are not flowering (they have maybe one or two clusters of flowers per tree). Since they typically flower profusely and require a lot of thinning, this is quite a change. No obvious other signs of problems, they are leafing out normally and look healthy other than the lack of flowers. The other apples seem to be doing fine, have a decent if somewhat slightly reduced number of flowers, which are about to open.

I am a bit concerned about this dramatic switch on these four trees. Anything I could be checking to see if there is some reason for their lack of flowers?

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Sounds like biennial bearing…lots of trees end up going there if they have a really heavy crop one year…they don’t do much the next.

(Mine all got froze last year, and I had a heavy bloom this year. Only one tree has hundreds of apples more than it can mature, though. They’re dropping…and the ones that remain ripen by Fourth if not sooner at golf ball to tennis ball size.) (It’s a zone 3 or 4 apple…doesn’t do much here…but useful as pollinator as it has heavy bloom most years.) (It and Granny Smith are going to be first trees I intentionally cut and remove. I may keep a limb of them on a ‘frankentree’.)

Thanks BlueBerry. And yes you are right could just be a case of biennial fruiting. Many of the other apples that are about to flower did not do so last year. Last year was pretty rough on all the trees, 3 rounds of warm weather followed by cold snaps in the spring, but these non-flowering trees this year all had a good crop last year when most of the other trees did not.

In general, I have been “playing” with these Lodi and Summer Treat trees for enough years that I thought I had figured out the amount of fruit they can support and still bear a good crop the following year. And it seems to work most years. But perhaps the repeated freezes last year put enough strain on them that they did not produce flower buds for this year, but still were able to fruit last year. Seems like a reasonable explanation.

My concern was that there is some other problem which caused the lack of flowers, and if so I’d like to catch and correct it. I like your idea, but I will also keep a close eye out for borers, gophers/voles or other things, just in case.

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I seem to have a light bloom on some trees this spring…red fleshed apples nearing bloom, but others in tight cluster, and some may be hiding bloom buds that aren’t obvious yet.

Certainly the freeze tonight ain’t as harmful as the April 2020 freezes…that year I had apples almost big as peas got blackened and lost. At this point the first bloomers are displaying a little pink.

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Sorry to hear you are running into this. It obviously happens, and I am not sure you can do much about it for the current year. FWIW, last year even though some trees had little to no fruit those that did flower did pretty good and overall we had a good crop. Hope you will see similar.

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