Wild apricot pollination is carried out by bees and insects, which are attracted to the abundant blossoms produced during March and April (2) (5). The fruits mature between June and July (2), eventually dropping to the ground, where the highly nutritious flesh and seeds provide an important food source for animals such as large field mice (Apodemus peninsulae), Chinese white-bellied rats (Niviventor confucianus) and David’s rock squirrels (Sciurotamias davidianus). Many of these species transport the seeds to underground winter food caches, which facilitates the dispersal of the wild apricot, since any uneaten seeds may go on to germinate and produce new trees (6).
Although its origins are believed to be central Asia, it remains unclear exactly when and where the first domestic cultivation of the wild apricot began. Certainly, by 100 B.C. it had been introduced into the Near East, expanding into much of Europe over the following centuries (7). Its fruits provide a valuable source of food, and its seeds have traditionally been used medicinally and as flavouring (3). Despite their nutritious content, the seeds of wild and domestic apricots contain varying amounts of a chemical which, when ingested, breaks down into the highly toxic hydrocyanic acid. While some controversial claims have been made that apricot seeds have anti-cancer properties, on a number of occasions excessive consumption has caused severe illness and even death (8).