Part of the work of SCOG involves identifying local trees. Often the variety can be pinpointed by our knowledgeable and experienced team just by looks alone. They consider all aspects of the fruit - shape, colour, taste, smell, cross-section, as well as the stalk, blossom and leaves.
But occasionally no definite identification can be made, so the next step is to compare the description with reference works, both new and old.
However, the ultimate step is to send samples for DNA analysis. When the results are returned, the apple may be matched with a named variety already on the national database, or comes back as "unknown". If it hasn't been seen before, and fits the description of a "lost" variety from old growers' catalogues, then the find could be claimed and named accordingly.
December 2020 update
We had 20 tests done in 2016 and of these 12 were positively identified as known varieties, so as the testing and confirmation processes have advanced we decided to go back and make enquiries on two of the unknowns.
A116 was an apple from Burghley Park, Dairy Orchard. On the original test there was one missing marker away from being Norfolk Beauty so at that time not sufficient to declare it fully but with better programmes for evaluating they now consider it to be true, so A116 is now to be updated to Norfolk Beauty.
A120 is more exciting as it was a lost variety in the UK. This apple came from another orchard of the Burghley Estate at Barrowden. In 2016 it was declared unresolved because it had been matched with Reinette de Hopital from Switzerland, an apple that was in the NFC but had been de-named because of lack of proof. However, recently the European DNA test groups have shared their information with us which showed five matches, all being synonyms of Royale d’Angleterre. So we have found an apple thought to not exist any more in the UK which so easily could have been lost but for the perseverance of SCOG and good use of funds.