From The Colorado Sun (Nancy Lofholm):
The Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project compared the fruit of a tree found near Cañon City to botanical illustrations and wax castings of award-winning apples to identify the lost treasure
“We are 98% sure, give or take 3%, we have found the elusive Colorado Orange apple,” Addie Schuenemeyer wrote in an announcement from the nonprofit Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project she and her husband started to preserve old apple varieties in the southwest corner of the state.
The announcement came following a visit to Colorado State University where they matched a suspected Colorado Orange apple to a wax cast of that variety made more than a century ago.
The Colorado Orange was a popular apple in the late 1800s. It was more oval in shape than many other apples and had a yellow peel with an orange blush. In taste, it had a bit of a citrus note. It kept longer than many apples…
The Schuenemeyers scoured Montezuma County, once a prolific apple-growing hotspot in Colorado, and couldn’t find a single Colorado Orange…
In their continuing search, the Schuenemeyers were able to trace the origins of the Colorado Orange to Fremont County. There they found a lone, decimated tree that was down to a single living limb. They were able to pick enough apples for testing.
DNA tests on samples of those apples came back “unique unknown.” The apples didn’t match any other known cultivar in the U.S. Department of Agriculture apple collection.
But there was no Colorado Orange in that collection for comparison.
Next, the Schuenemeyers compared the apple to paintings of the Colorado Orange that were made by USDA artists in the early 1900s. The shape, size, color, ribs, seeds, cavity – everything matched.
But they needed more. They needed a horticulture sample. They finally found one in Colorado State University’s Agricultural and Natural Resources Archive. Around the turn of the 20th century, a professor had made wax castings of award-winning apples, including the Colorado Orange.