The Sievers apple, or Malus sieversii, is said to be the 6000 years-old ancestor of domesticated apples, and would have been dispersed, east to china and west to Europe with the caravans travelling along the Silk Road.
It grows on a wild apple tree on the foothills of Central Asian mountains, and particularly the Tien Shan or Heavenly Mountains, that cross borders between Kazakhstan and China. At their foot lies the ancient capital of Almaty, whose old name “Alma-Ata” would mean “father of apples” in Kazakh. There can still be found the Sievers Apple along with many other old apple varieties, some of which are already on the Ark of Taste. The trees can resist strongly fluctuant temperature, going from -40 degrees during winter to 40 degrees in the summer. The Sievers apples are small, round and bright colored, yellowish green tinged with red, with a sweet and sour taste.
It has been named after the German botanist Johann August Carl Sievers, member of the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences, who made several expeditions in Siberia and in Central Asia at the end of the 18th century, and would have been one of the first to discover the wild apple trees forests in southeast Kazakhstan.
Nowadays the ancestor of all apples is highly threatened for several reasons: firstly because of the loss of its habitat, reduced with the deforestation implied by the expansion of agricultural land and constructions of private buildings, but also because of genetic erosion due to cross pollination with other cultivated species, hybridization for commercial varieties. As noted by the IUCN redlist, its habitat has declined by over 70% in the last 30 years. Today 75% of Sievers apple groves are concentrated mainly in the Trans-Ili Alatau and Jungar regions of Kazakhstan.
Along with the loss of biodiversity, would also disappear with these apples an important genetic resource and a very old landscape.