The scientists artificially distinguish between the so-called species Malus Domestica and Malus Sylvestris. But we know there's no real distinction. You can cross crab apples with cookers, eaters and cider apples. Oh yeah. crabs may be the chavs of the apple world - hated by the pomonophiles and looked down upon by the dessert growers - but they're lusty, fertile and always willing to help when it comes to fertilising one of they posh trees.
And Malus is amazing. What a useful tree. You can eat the eaters, cook the cookers. Make crab-apple jelly. Press the cider apples, wait a few months and drink it the juice. Cut off twigs and give them to the Earless Beaker Bunny to keep her incisors in trim. Chop the tree down and burn it - it's fantastic firewood.
And I love Malus because it's got a genetic mind of its own. You plant an apple seed - you never know what's going to grow. You plant a Golden Delicious pip, 10 years later you've a tree that produces tasty apples with a point to eat them. It can happen. Or it could be some useless seedling that you throw away. You never know with an apple. That's the point. If you drive down the A5 from Milton Keynes to Dunstable - especially down the hill that gives Hockliffe its name, where people queue up going south - there's apple trees self-set all the way down there. Even more down the M11, I notice. They must have huge traffic jams - because the trees are there because commuters have thrown apple cores out the window. The only litter with a benefit. All that genetic diversity - the next Ashmead's Kernel or Egremont Russet or Worcester Pearmain is probably, as I write, growing next to a motorway somewhere, unnoticed except in early autumn when someone remarks what a lovely colour the fruit is.
I've been thinking about church plants. And I reckon they've a strong similarity to apple pips.
"Let's have a plant", someone will say. There's many reasons why they might say this - and they're normally the wrong one. The church has outgrown its building - it does happen. Really, some churches do outgrow buildings. Or someone wants a family service and it's not allowed at the "home" church and they think - "go on, have it in the school up the road". That could happen. Or someone's decided they've their own vision for church and want to go for it. And the vicar thinks it's a good idea to let them go.
I tell you, there's all sorts of reasons for it to happen. And they're normally wrong. And yet - there's something about a plant. It's like an apple pip. The time it takes for the "parent" church (or "mother ship" in technical terms) to realise that the plant isn't what they intended can take from 6 weeks to about 3 years. But somewhere down the road, if things go wrong, they'll realise that the scion ain't like the stock. The Anglo-Catholic church that's stood at the town crossroads since King Penda was a lad has just realised it's unexpectedly mothered a kid in a hoody that's bought an electric keyboard and a bass. Or the evo church which people come from miles to worship in, accidentally plants a community church which reflects the diversity of the community, instead of the straight-down-the-line purity it was supposed to hold onto.
You can't control them. If the plant thrives but morphs - then the parent interferes, tries to change it to what it was supposed to be, might try and close it down - looks a bit sad - then shrugs and gives up. Nature's like that. Not that a Granny Smith can try to make a russet offspring all green and shiny and tasteless - but it might try if, like a parent church, it had the ability.