On a cold, sunny day in December, Jean-Michel Poutissou paused to admire the six apple trees he had fought to save.
Poutissou came to Vancouver in 1972 when the trees were just young trees on the campus of the University of British Columbia. Trees – planted outside the TRIUMF physics laboratory – are descended from the same tree that Sir Isaac Newton said sat down when he pondered gravity.
Poutissou, an emeritus researcher at TRIUMF, said the trees "grew happily" until the mid-1990s, when condominium developers wanted a straight road from the campus to homes. The trees are in danger of ax.
"No one (involved in development) cares too much about Newton's apple tree," he said. "For them, they block."
It took a campaign to convince the university president to intervene and save the roundabout where trees were planted, he said.
Now for almost 50 years, trees are covered with shoots that will fatten during the winter before producing fruit.
Poutissou said he hadn't tasted apples for a long time and didn't remember the taste.
"It's not like McIntosh, but don't hold me for it," he said, laughing.
Travel from England
Tree trips began around the end of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Tree grafts – sent from universities in England where Newton worked – arrived in Vancouver in 1971. Correspondence between UBC and England showed 50 centimeters of snow covered Vancouver on the arrival of the graft.
The two cuttings were later transplanted and now six trees sit on the TRIUMF campus.
Today, National Trust in England maintains original apple trees at Woolsthorpe Manor, where Newton considered the law of gravity. The tree is called Bunga Kent, a traditional variety, which produces apples of various sizes.
In 1820, a storm blew on the original tree but the tree survived and its legacy continued to grow.
The National Trust says there are many universities that display clones from native trees. It is not known how the idea of sending trees throughout the world appeared.
"This possibility is spread more by word of mouth between universities," read a statement from the National Trust.
In addition to the University of British Columbia, University of York in Toronto also hosted the Newton apple tree. Thanks to York professor Robert Prince, an astronaut who was one of Prince's students was able to bring tree seeds with him on a space flight in 2006.