'Winter Banana' Apple on Own-Roots

Hi all,
I’m new to this forum, but have been deep into growing edible plants for quite a few years.

I’m curious if any of you out there have or know of any ‘Winter Banana’ apple trees which are growing on their own roots (I know it’s a long shot). I’m curious what the natural vigor of this cultivar is when not influenced by root stock. I guess I’ll find out eventually though as I’m establishing a stooling bed to start propagating it on its own roots.

In addition to just growing own-root ‘Winter Banana’ apples for their own sake, I’d like to experiment with using them as a nurse-rootstock for grafting pears (graft would be buried), but that’s a different topic. I did just make a blog post on that a few days back though if any of you want to see what I’m talking about. ‘Winter Banana’ apple as rootstock for pear.

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I’ve not had an own roots WB, but I’ve grafted it to MM102, M27, and a Granny Smith seedling, and an Ambrosia seedling.
My experience has been consistently: Very low vigour.
WB on a Granny Smith was lower than everything else I’ve ever grafted, even to M27!
That said, I live in a city in Queensland, AU that has ~800 Chill hours, but also up 36C+ summers, and at least this paper: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14620316.2000.11511248?needAccess=true seemed to find hot summers to have some vigour reducing effects on WB (and some others).

I know that doesn’t really help you much, and would love to hear back from you when you’ve had a few grow!

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I don’t know what rootstock my WB is on, but it is super vigorous. I planted it in 2018 and new growth shoots out 3ft no problem. That said I am not a fan of the apples so i am looking to graft over it. We have 500-800 chill hours, and summer temps peak around 115F (46C). Once July hits, we only see rain once a month until about October. So, summertime it is on irrigation (usually around the minimum to get by), but springtime usually sees us getting 5-8" (12-20cm) of rain a month.

What do you all do with WB apples? If i don’t eat them right off the tree, i feel the texture becomes unpalatable and there is no juice.

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Our old WB is still vigorous and highly productive, but we don’t know what the rootstock is.

We don’t eat them fresh, but they dry very well and are a good addition to cobbler.

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@schme16 I appreciate learning that ‘Winter Banana’ will be of low vigor in a warmer climate. In my temperate climate garden I top-worked a ‘Centennial’ crabapple (supposed to be medium vigor) with ‘Winter Banana’ a few years ago and it has grown away with very high vigor. I also grafted a bunch of different varieties onto M.26 rootstock a couple years back and found ‘Winter Banana’ has been about the same growth rate as the mode average with a few other varieties showing less vigor.

@Dudeness So far I’ve only had a small number of ‘Winter Banana’ apples, but I enjoyed them fresh. I admit they aren’t my top favorite apple for fresh eating, but definitely within the range that I enjoy. I did notice that when stored at room temperature the texture starts changing quickly, but I haven’t yet tried storing them with refrigeration to see how that compares.

When does everyone’s WB actually ripen? I have seen such different ripening times that I am not really sure when to pick mine that I have. I have tried it two different times (different ripening months dates) and one was too unripe and the other was was to ripe.

@etheth32992 Ethan, tagging you here cause we were talking about this today.

I’ve always thought about grafting pears to apples. I’ve read somewhere that most grafts last only ten years or so. Might be different the other way around.

In a study I read the rootstock used made a big difference. Pear with ‘Winter Banana’ interstem on some rootstocks was short lived or unproductive even if it didn’t die off, but when the rootstock was M 26 a high percentage of the pears with ‘Winter Banana’ interstem were long lived (still alive at the end of the trial) AND productive of fruit. The fact that zero pear grafts survived when grafted to all the same apple rootstocks in the study when they DIDN’T have a ‘Winter Banana’ interstem makes me think that if ‘Winter Banana’ itself was the actual rootstock instead of just an interstem the longevity and productivity would probably be way better. I wish the study had included that as a variable.

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But own root winter banana also likely would have made a much larger tree. In that study they where looking for a way to dwarf tree’s. “seedling” vigor would not be effective dwarfing.

if your interested in full size pear tree’s. Why not use pear seedlings?
If your interested in nurse roots to own root pear varieties, you could also try quince.
Some pear varieties are not directly quince compatible. But often it takes years for this incompatibility to show. So for nurse root purposes that should be no problem.

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They were also testing semi-vigorous rootstocks such as MM 106 and MM 111, but regardless it looks like there may be a dwarfing effect based on partial incompatibility factors. For example, M 26 is said to produce apple trees 55-60% of standard and M 7 60% of standard, but quote “Tree size ranged from 10% of standard for ‘Bartlett’ on M.26 to 25% for ‘Comice’ on M.7” https://eurekamag.com/research/007/637/007637340.php This means that just being on apple alone caused far more dwarfing than would have happened if it was apple grafted on apple vs. pear on apple. In other words apple rootstocks intended to produce half sized trees produced pears that were between quarter and tenth size trees. Based on this I feel it’s reasonable to assume that even on vigorous ‘Winter Banana’ roots, a pear would not grow as large as what would be possible on vigorous pear roots. I just wish we knew for sure.

I suspect if ‘Winter Banana’ was readily available on its own roots they would have included it as a variable in the study.

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Maybe once I get some own-root 'Winter Banana’s going I should send some to @clarkinks to experiment with as pear rootstock since he loves pear trees of all sizes and wouldn’t be upset if they surprised us by growing huge.

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You make some valid point. do you have a link to the article, where i don’t have to pay? Or a DOI number?

I’m curious though. MM111 is close to full size, how big did they get on that?

I’m not sure there is much difference vigor wise between an MM111 with winter banana or a winter banana on it’s own roots.

and although possible. It seems unlikely to me that the MM111 to winter banana graft union would have a mechanism that affects pears, but not apples on top. Or do you expect a substance produced by the pear to “poison” or “affect” the MM111 roots? to which the winter banana is more resistant? Like with quince/pears. (although there the substance is produced by the rootstock in most cases.)
But that would then have to be a substance that is not blocked or broken down by the winter banana interstem…

I think it’s much more likely that the reduced vigor due to partial incompatibility, accounts for the different mortality’s/survival. A tree dwarfed to 10% would be way more sensitive to the environment. Than one dwarfed to 30%

i am curious about the outcome though. It’s a cool experiment. Thanks for taking us along :grin:

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I tried in vain to find the full article, but all I could find were other websites just showing highlights. :disappointed:

if you find a website that mentions a DOI number. Please post it here.
Although the article might be to old for that

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It looks like MM 111 had a very low survival rate long term (7%), but I didn’t see any reference to size of the survivors. I would suspect the few survivors were only barely surviving and not thriving though.

@JohannsGarden

I’ve done some experiments with winter banana but only with apples. Apples do not do well here as a rule. I’m sure you will have great success with apples. @39thparallel grows beautiful winter banana not far from here. MM 111 will grow here its a very good rootstock.

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In my 4a climate here in the north east Winter Banana has been quite vigorous on both B.118 and P.18 (both standard root stocks). My trees are still young, but they are one of the trees that put on the most growth each season (out of approximately 150 apple varieties).

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I’ve put Winter Banana on several trees, when I was newer to grafting it was fun to play with what could be done.

I don’t care for the fresh fruit at all. It’s a pretty apple, and has some graft compatibility with pears. Those are all the good things I have to say about it.

It’s not for my palate.

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I agree with you. It is a beautiful apple but the taste is not what I was expecting. It is sort of a nothing type apple, taste wise. Mine has only fruited for two years, 2019 and 2021. I was hoping it was going to taste better in a few years. Sounds like it will not taste any better. I bought it mainly for being a pollinator.

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