While he may not dress like Sherlock Holmes, an “amateur apple detective” has once again found some varieties previously believed to be lost. Dave Benscoter, a retired law enforcement official, has a knack for discovering apple varieties previously believed to be lost by combing a 125-year-old abandoned orchard on the slopes of the Steptoe Butte in Washington State.
A few years ago, Benscoter discovered ‘Nero’ and ‘Fall Jeneting’ trees, previously believed to be lost. Last week, Benscoter said heirloom apple experts confirmed his finds of ‘Arkansas Beauty’ and ‘Dickinson’ apple varieties in Steptoe Butte.
The Spokane Spokesman-Review reports after Benscoter’s first findings, his efforts are being aided by the Whitman County Historical Society as well as a private landowner who purchased 437 acres of land next to the Steptoe Butte State Park.
Benscoter told the Spokesman Review he suspects as many as 13 more lost apple varieties may be growing in Whitman County.
For these latest finds, he sent apples of trees he thought were lost varieties to the Home Orchard Society, where they confirmed Benscoter’s suspicions. However, the experts suggested Benscoter seek a second opinion, where an apple expert in Maine confirmed the apples were ‘Arkansas Beauty’ and ‘Dickinson.’
“It is estimated that of the 17,000 named apple varieties originating in North America, only around 3,000 still exist today,” Benscoter told the Spokesman-Review. “Some of the lost varieties are truly extinct, having been chopped down for firewood or ripped out to make room for more profitable crops or buildings,” he said.
Benscoter says the varieties were found on old orchards planted around the turn of the century by the families of James “Cashup” Davis and Robert and Mecie Burns.
‘Arkansas Beauty’ was found on Davis’ orchard and ‘Dickinson’ was found in an abandoned orchard of Burns.