Roger Way’s apples

In Roger Way’s obituary, it mentions that he introduced 16 apple cultivars, often with colleagues.

I thought it would be easy to track them down, but I haven’t seen them listed in one place. He started developing cultivars as early as 1949 and was a professor at Cornell from 1953 to 1983. He kept working at Cornell after he retired well into the 1990s.

These are the cultivars I’m pretty sure he is credited for or shares credit for. Corrections and additions would be welcome.










Northern Lights

Bean and Lovell (but not Conrad, since it had already been used) were apple cultivars introduced by Cornell in the 1970s and named after the astronauts who took apple seeds into outer space.

Autumn Crisp was developed while he was at Cornell, but it was not released until long after he retired for good, and I think Susan Brown gets the credit.

I would also welcome comments on the varieties. We grow Jonagold and Autumn Crisp, and they both consistently finish high on taste tests we hold in the fall. We also grow Liberty, and some years it is as good as Macoun, but other years but so-so.


Fortune tastes great but gets blackrot like crazy as does Spigold to a lesser degree. Both are more sweet than tart and big apples- Fortune is huge. I like a newer strain of Jonagold I grow better than the original and I wish I hadn’t lost track on its name. It is a bit smaller than other strains I’ve grown and ripens just a few days sooner, is harder and a bit higher flavored. When ACN first started selling it they claimed it ripened significantly earlier than the original, but it merely colors quite early.

When people eat the Jonagold I’m talking about they swear it’s Honeycrisp although it ripens a month later. It looks stripey in almost the same way as HC- I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in a bin. The texture isn’t as explosively crisp as HC but people don’t seem to notice the difference.

When I started my business, I spoke to Roger Way several times and he helped me get started on IDing east coast apples. He wasn’t always right and this was in the early '90’s. His memory of shapes and color were still strong but he would identify a few apples that were wrong based on ripening over a month out of season.

For years he was Cornell’s go-to for apple ID. I think of all his creations he was proudest of Jonagold. It became a lot more popular in Europe than it ever did here even though it always seems to do great in taste-tests.

People do like a sweet juicy apple. It has a reputation for high culinary value for a sweet apple and certainly allows the creation of pies with less sugar.


A dozen years ago I decided to opt for Jonagold instead of Spigold since both were highly rated, but Jonagold was supposed to be easier to grow with fewer problem. I’ve had second thoughts about adding Spigold, but as I am nearing 70, I’m not sure I want to wait for its first fruiting.

8 years ago I sent Roger a letter:

He wrote me back!

Classy guy, if you want to read more about his work there are a ton of old food and life sciences bulletins hovering out there on the interwebs. Really cool stuff, its how I got to know about his work.


I can assure you, its worth the wait.
I had one store until May this year and was still awesome although lacking its spicy character.
One characteristic that may lead to its incredible keeping ability is its greasy, slimy skin.
It washes off with water and a towel.

I plan on picking more at the orchard this year to store with my new apple & peanut butter favorite, Melrose.


Why are you less patient than when you were a younger man? :wink:

2-3 years post graft.

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I concur with @MegaMav and @alan. Spigold’s well worth the wait, @Lodidian. Graft it onto a sturdy host, as it’s a vigorous triploid. Once it starts fruiting, it bears heavily and reliably. I just added another graft of it myself, as it’s been a big hit in my little orchard.


Thanks for the encouragement. Every year I buy a bushel of Spigolds from an orchard about seven miles away, so I don’t need to grow my own to acquire them. It would be nice to pick some from our own tree, however.

Good to hear, Alan, about fruit in 2-3 years. It was my understanding that as a triploid and descendent of Northern Spy, Spigold was notoriously late to first start fruiting, 8 or more years on M111 or B118 and at least 5 on full dwarfing.

I travel about 50 for mine. I have limited space, so I’ll keep traveling for them. :slight_smile:

I put my graft on a Jonathon and it grew like a bat out of hell- I pulled it horizontal early the 2nd year and it fruited on the 3rd, by then it was a full sized scaffold but only had a dozen apples. The Jonathon is on M111. No fruit on it this year, but its flowers may have frozen. The trick is always pulling uprights below horizontal with varieties that have Spy characteristics- that is, determined, very vigorous upright growth. You just can’t wait for adequate moderately vigorous wood to develop- the tree won’t cooperate.


Since you do grow a Jonamac, but not a Spigold, does that mean you prefer the Jonamac. I don’t hear much about that cultivar.

I used to grow Spigold at a former property and I’d say it’s the best apple I ever tasted. I remember taking a bite and telling a friend- “Now that’s what an apple is supposed to taste like!”


Its my first love and my first tree.
I appreciate the heirlooms, but there isnt anything quite like a Jonamac fresh off the tree on a cool morning in September. Sweet and vinous like a mac but with extra spice and complexity of the jonathan.

When they’re perfectly ripe the fruit smells of a cherry fruit roll up. Always takes me back.


Just heard a Roger Way story from a friend who heard it first hand from a long time associate of Dr. Way’s named Kenny. The story occurred at the apple research lab in Geneva, NY, more than twenty-five years ago. One day Dr. Way presented ten apples to Kenny and asked him to try his hand at identifying them. They were all different sizes, shapes, and mix of colors. Kenny struggled to identify any of them and spent a couple days just getting more and more frustrated. Then by some look on Roger Way’s face when he stopped by to check on Kenny’s progress, Kenny got the idea there must be a trick. Then it didn’t take him long to complete his assignment. He returned to Roger Way’s office and deposited the apples on his desk. Kenny informed his boss correctly that the apples, none of which looked alike, were all Baldwins.


I had Roger Way identify many apples when I first began work on an estate I’ve been working at for over 25 years. He got the Baldwin identification right but several he got very wrong. There are too many varieties on old trees in this state for anyone to master- many the off-spring of other old varieties- he got shapes right but ripening times wrong on a couple I’m quite sure of now- sure of what they are not because of varieties purchased later, including from Cummins nursery where ripening times were more than a month off of same name trees Roger had “identified”

He helped me a lot with common old varieties, although he identified one tree as Grimes Golden whose apples have fallen off the tree for 3-4 weeks before ACN Grimes Golden are ripe.

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I grafted a Spigold onto a Zestar in 2019. I’ll have to remember to tie down the branch next spring. Fruiting seems to take longer here in the North than what others in warmer climes commonly report.

I love the taste but the variety is prone to black rot here. Not as bad as Honeycrisp or Fortune, but it can really thin the crop at some sites. It will also dominate the Zestar if you are not careful.

I learned of another Roger Way apple, Wayne. It is a cross of Northwestern Greening and Red Spy and ripens with McIntosh. It was introduced in 1963 with high hopes by the Cornell team. Its shortcomings were discovered not long after. Nonetheless, Dr. Way and his colleagues published an article in 1973 “Growing and Processing the Wayne Apple,” in which they outlined the tree’s faults but still concluded that because of the “exceptional quality of the fruit,” it merited the effort to grow it. I think I’ll try it. Has anyone else?

I found a definitive source for what varieties Roger Way introduced — Roger Way himself.

Roger D. Way, 1986:

“Ten varieties of apples were introduced during Way’s tenure: Niagara, Wayne, Spigold, Empire, Jonagold, Spijon, Jonamac, Burgundy, Geneva Early, Early Cortland.”

He omits Liberty and Freedom, crediting them to his colleague Robert Lamb who started Cornell’s disease-resistant apple program.

In an appendix, Way lists the fruit varieties introduced by the Department of Pomology and Viticulture, Geneva, in its first 90 years, 1894-1983. Among them were these 59 apple varieties:

Alton (1930), Barry (1957), Broome (1914), Burgundy (1971), Carlton (1923), Chautauqua (1915), Clinton (1914), Cornell McIntosh (1956), Cortland (1915), Dunning (1938), Early Cortland (1982), Early McIntosh (1923) , Empire (1966), Freedom (1983), Geneva Early ( 1982), Geneva McIntosh (1959), Geneva Ontario (1964), Greendale (1938), Herkimer (1914), Jonagold (1968), Jonamac (1972), Kendall (1932), Liberty (1978), Lodi (1924), Macoun (1923), Medina (1922), Milton (1923), Monroe (1949), Montgomery (1914), Nassau (1914), Newfane (1927), Niagara (1962), Novole (rootstock) (1982), Ogden (1928), Onondaga (1915), Orleans (1924), Oswego (1915), Otsego (1914), Redfield (1930), Redford (1938), Redhook (1938), Red Jacket (1938), Red Sauce (1926) , Rensselaer (1914), Rockland (1914), Saratoga (1914), Schenectady (1915), Schoharie (1914), Spigold (1962), Spijon (1968), Sweet Delicious (1922), Sweet McIntosh (1922), Tioga (1915), Ulster (1914), Van Eseltine (1937), Wayne (1962), Webster (1938), Wellington (1955), and Westchester (1914).

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Ah, so Wayne is named after Wayne county? I’d love to find Herkimer and Otsego. I don’t recall them being listed in Geneva’s list of available germplasm. I’ll have to check again.

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