Newton’s spple seeds take root at Erddig

In May, three apple seedlings grown from the very apple tree that inspired Newton’s theory of gravity were presented to Techniquest Glyndŵr by our Head Gardener, Glyn Smith.

The seedlings were offspring grown from pips taken from the apple tree that first took root around 400 years ago of the variety ‘Flower of Kent’. With more than 180 different varieties of apples growing in our garden and a month-long autumn harvest celebration, it’s no surprise that in our grounds there’s already a fruit tree propagated from the original over in Cambridgeshire.

As Erddig’s Head Gardener, Glyn Smith says:
“These seedlings won’t exactly be the same as the original tree, as they will probably have been cross pollinated by other trees in the gardens here at Erddig and will also have genes from their parents and grandparents. So if they grow, there may one day be a new variety. Isaac’s Erddig Pippin perhaps?”

Fruit boost for science

This unique collaboration between two local visitor attractions came about as a result of an initiative developed by the UK Association of Science Discovery Centres (ASDC) and National Trust Woolsthorpe Manor in order to mark International Science Centre and Science Museum Day. This is a global event backed by UNESCO.

Techniquest Glyndŵr

Apple pips taken from apples grown from the original apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor were distributed to a limited number of science centres across the UK, with ASDC member Techniquest Glyndŵr taking part in November 2016.

As well as contacting Erddig for their support Techniquest Glyndŵr also involved children from two local schools in planting the apple pips that arrived from Woolsthorpe, the Welsh medium school Ysgol Plas Coch and Rhosddu Primary School.

Glyn Smith continued:
“After Simon Brown from Techniquest Glyndŵr contacted me I agreed to participate in the project and we received just three apple pips from the tree which still survives at Woolsthorpe with the other precious samples being planted by school children near the science centre.”

Pip pip hooray

Originally the project was to work with just two local schools to raise the pips and eventually plant them out, but Glyn was happy to share his expertise in ensuring that there was the maximum chance of having live offspring from the seeds – planting apple pips really isn’t that simple!

Glyn added:
“The pips needed around six weeks stored in a refrigerator, before actual planting, and several times they were nearly thrown out!

“Without much hope that we would succeed in germinating any of the pips, to my amazement all three germinated and are now about two inches tall. I was pleased to hand them over to Simon for looking after in the Science Garden at the centre.”

Sir Isaac Newton was famously sitting under an apple tree, when a falling apple inspired his revolutionary theories about gravity and Techniquest Glyndŵr, having opened their new Science Garden at their base on the campus of Glyndŵr University, was keen to plant and grow an apple tree with such a close and historic connection with the world famous scientist.
A further scientific connection to the apple pips and tree was pointed out by Jannette Warrener, Operations Manager for National Trust Woolsthorpe Manor, East Anglia.

“Pips from our tree have been in space on the International Space Centre, originally sent up with Tim Peake as part of his ‘Principia’ mission. They have certainly travelled far and wide!”

She added:
 “I was delighted to have shared apple pips with other amazing sites for science across the country and hope that the project will have engaged young people with the fascinating story of Newton. He truly shaped modern scientific thinking here at Woolsthorpe when he worked on his theory of gravity and also explored light and calculus.”

The CEO of ASDC Dr Penny Fidler said:
"We were delighted to have celebrated International Science Centre and Science Museum Day by sharing Newton’s apples seeds with families and the public through the impressive network of UK science centres. As a nation and a global society we have some major challenges ahead that will take scientific creativity and entrepreneurship to solve.
Science Centres and Museums are at the heart of bringing the latest science to the public across the UK and helping children and adults to get involved with science in a hands-on and inspirational way, building the skills we need to create a better world for the future."

Scot Owen, Centre Manager at Techniquest Glyndŵr, commented:
 “As a member of the ASDC we were pleased to join in with this imaginative project and also help strengthen our links with two local primary schools as well as Erddig and the National Trust.

"The story of Newton’s Apple is well known and by being able to have the chance to grow a living apple tree connected with this famous scientist and associate it with the story of how it helped to develop Newton’s theory of gravity I am sure it will help to fire up the imagination of local children and kindle a greater interest in science.

We would like to thank Glyn for helping to germinate and look after these valuable seeds. We’re delighted that we now have three healthy seedlings to nurture and grow on, ready for planting out not only in our own Science garden here at Techniquest Glyndŵr but also in the grounds of the two closest Primary Schools to our centre.”