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Life Cycle of Apple Trees - Apple Education - Apples and More - University of Illinois Extension

Apples: A Class Act

Life Cycle of Apple Trees

Background Information: In winter the apple tree rests. On the branches are buds, some of which contain leaves and others that contain five flowers. With warmer spring weather, the leaf buds unfold and flower buds begin to grow on the ends of the twigs.

Honeybees are attracted to the apple flowers by nectar and the scent of the petals. As the bee collects nectar, it also picks up pollen. When the bee lands on a flower on another tree, it brushes against the pistil of the flower, leaving pollen grains on the sticky stigma. The pollen grains send tubes down through the styles to reach the ovary (pollination). Through the filament the sperm present in pollen can reach the ovules that are in the ovary. The fertilized ovules will become seeds.

The outer wall of the ovary develops into the fleshy white part of the apple. The inner wall of the ovary becomes the apple core around the seeds.

In summer, the apples grow bigger and gradually change color, and the tree produces new growth. In fall, the apples ripen. About two weeks before the harvest, the apples' food supply from the tree is cut off and the apples become sweeter. Most apples are harvested by hand, primarily in September and October.

The flowers have many parts that are crucial to the formation of apples:

  • Sepals - five green, leaf-like structures that make up a flower's calyx
  • Petals - the part of a flower that attracts insects by their color and scent
  • Stamens - the male reproductive part made up of an anther and filament
  • Anther - the part of the stamen that produces pollen
  • Filament - the stalk of the stamen
  • Pistil - female part of the flower, made up of a stigma, style, and an ovary
  • Stigma - the top of a flower's pistil
  • Style - the part of a pistil that connects the stigma and the ovary
  • Ovary - the rounded base of the pistil, inside of which are five compartments each containing two ovules, female reproductive cells that can become seeds


  1. Picture Books - Students can make picture books explaining the life cycle of an apple tree. They may enjoy creating the books for younger students.
  2. Illustrated Glossary - Students make an illustrated glossary in booklet form defining the key words for the apple tree's life cycle.
  3. Apple Tree Throughout the Seasons - Students paint or use colored chalk to show the changes the apple tree goes through each season.
  4. Drawing Diagrams - Students draw detailed diagrams of the parts of the flower of the apple tree.
  5. Dissecting Apple Blossoms - If apple trees grow nearby, clip some blossoms and let the students dissect them in order to find the flower parts.
  6. Helpful Bees - Ask for volunteers to research how commercial growers utilize bees in their orchards.

Art Activities

  1. Printing with Apples - Cut apples in half with different colors of tempera paint, make apple prints. Students can print with the apples on different colors of construction paper. They may want to design their own greeting cards using the apple print motif.
  2. Apple Dolls - Native Americans used apples to make applehead dolls. To make these shriveled-faced dolls, peel an apple and cut away the lower sides to form a chin. Carve a nose and a mouth and scoop out eyes. Carefully scoop out the core of the apple and sprinkle salt inside. Stuff it with cotton. Insert a pencil or stick into the bottom of the apple, and use beads or beans for the eyes. Sprinkle the apple with lemon juice and salt and let the applehead dry for at least two weeks. When dry, add yarn for hair and scraps of material for clothes.
  3. Apple Creatures - Although young students like this activity, older ones still enjoy it, too. Ask students to create apple creatures using apples, toothpicks, marshmallows, and raisins. They might also use construction paper to add feathers, curly tails, or other interesting characteristics.

Adapted from Apples: A Class Act published by the U.S. Apple Association. If you would like additional information, please contact: U.S. Apple Association, P.O. Box 1137, McLean, VA 22101-1137, (703) 442-8850