Please offer advice for this apple tree

A really good friend of mine who knows of my passion for fruit growing has asked me for help with his apple tree. I told him I’m no expert but I sure know some people who are! I told him I’d upload a photo and ask for advice and then give him a link to this thread so he can read the comments himself. He’s a sharp guy is willing to do whatever you say-even if it means cutting it back to 3 foot tall! Its a 4 to 6 year old apple tree, barely blooms, and has never fruited. (he knows he needs a pollinator, so focus on pruning). The variety is unknown, but (obviously) its never been pruned in any way since he planted it 4-6 years ago. I’ve never seen an apple tree look like this…looks a lot more like a maple than apple! Anyway, what should he do?

EDIT: I apologize- it wasn’t until after I posted that I realized how little you can tell from the photo. Having not seen the tree in person, I mistakenly got the apple tree and the tall white tree behind it combined in my mind’s eye (which is why I said it looked more like a maple). You may see what I mean…following the trunk of the apple tree it lines up perfectly with the straight, tall, white tree behind it and I mistakenly thought at was all one tree. Point is, I now see that you very much need a closer photo to make any kind of meaningful recommendations. I was going to delete the whole post until I got a better photo but wasn’t sure how. Sorry…and thanks for any help you try (tried) to give. I’ll have him send a better photo asap.

Is it a seedling tree…it sure looks like it? You’re right it does blend in with what appears to be maybe a birch or sugar maple. The growth appears to be extremely vigorous. It needs pruned, it needs it’s vertical growth controlled, but if it is a seedling it just appears to me to be a healthy growing normal tree. Again, if it is a seedling, nothing so far looks or sounds out of the ordinary to me.
Does your buddy have any preference for how he would like to prune it. Is he growing it for fruit for him…wildlife, landscape beauty?
I’m curious as to the recommendations of others, and the more I look at it I have to think this is a seedling, although it’s difficult to tell where the apple ends and the woods in the background begin.

TO be honest I’m a little embarrassed by my original posting of this and would have deleted the whole thread if I could. My heart was in the right place as I was trying to help my friend, but as dumb as it sounds I posted the text/explanation without really looking at the photo or realizing how useless it was. I’ve ask him to get me a new photo.
But it actually isn’t a seedling. He bought it at a big box store as a very small tree and never did a single thing to it. Not ever. But it barely blooms and never produces fruit (though the fruit problem is likely due to lack of pollinator, which he is going to remedy asap.
Thanks again for your help, but before others chime in I need to get a better photo so we can actually see what is apple and what is other strees in background. THanks for trying to help, though.

Understand the lack of pollination, but he also said it doesn’t bloom or barely blooms…right? What kind of tree is it, and was it supposed to be dwarf, SD, or standard? Just curious.

He doesn’t even know what kind it is or what root stock or anything else. It was a big box store tree. He’s a smart, hard working and successful guy, but-like many people- just bought and planted an apple tree with the idea that he could just wait and get some fruit in a few years. He knows better now, and is willing to do whatever you all suggest to try and get this tree back on track. He knows he has to plant another apple, but wants to know what to do with this one.
Here are some better photos of the tree, which is 4-5 years old and has never had any pruning.

I was going to tell him to cut that middle big limb (sort of a central leader here) all the way back where it comes out of the main trunk, leaving the other 2 big, main upward leaders that go in different directions. Then I was going to say cut all the inward growing branches off of both those 2 main upward limbs. Then finally I was going to have him cut the top 1-2 feet where there are all those long, gangly waterspout looking branches off.
But as you all know, I’m an amateur. You folks are the experiences and/or professional fruit tree people. I’m going to give him a link to this site and this thread, so please let him know what you think he should do. Thanks!

I too am an amateur, but I think your idea sounds pretty good with the addition of spreaders. Even those larger diameter limbs can be pulled down a bit and spread. I may be wrong on this, but I wouldn’t top the vigorous upright growth. I would completely remove some and leave the others be. Just taking off the tops will cause those vigorous shoots to branch out vigorously blanketing the lower tree from light.
I would completely remove about 1/3 of the vigorous upright growth, maybe even 1/2.

I’d sure hate to mow your buddies lawn with a push mower. :smile: