Pyrus - Pear
DESCRIPTION: Pyrus is the botanical name for a popular group of deciduous trees and shrubs greatly valued for their beauty and their delicious fruit, known as Pears. Pears can be grown throughout the Temperate regions where winters are not too severe and there is adequate moisture. Pears will not survive where temperatures fall lower than -20º F. They are widely cultivated for commerce in California, Washington, Oregon and in places near the Great Lakes. Other regions that grow Pears include New York near Lake Ontario, Illinois, the Hudson Valley, western Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Ontario. Pears are susceptible to fire blight (more so with the fruit trees than with those grown for ornament), therefore the cultivation of these trees in the warm and humid southern states is limited to only certain blight-resistant varieties, which unfortunately do not produce as high-quality fruits.
Edible fruit - P. communis (Common Pear) originated in southeastern Europe and the Caucasian region. It has a long trunk with a pyramidal shaped crown. Its simple, oval to broadly ovate leaves are alternately arranged on the branches. They are from 2 to 4 inches long and 1 or 2 inches wide. They are leathery textured, glossy dark green on top and paler and smooth beneath. The edible fruits of this tree are small, growing about 2 inches long, greenish colored and dry and gritty. Many improved named varieties have been derived from this species and they will be mentioned below in the varieties section.
Ornamental - P. calleryana is a blight resistant variety that has been bred into fruiting varieties. A variety, named Bradford, is a beautiful tree that is grown for ornament and reaches a height ranging from 30 to 50 feet. In the spring, clusters of 1-inch, white flowers cover the tree. These are followed by pea-sized, inedible fruits. The leaves of this tree turn shiny dark red to scarlet in the fall. This variety withstands pollution and can be grown along roads. Another variety, Chanticleer, grows up to 30 feet and has yellow autumn foliage.
Edible fruit - Pears need a location with good circulation where the ground is slightly elevated and sloping. This is because the trees bloom early and the flowers may be damaged in the spring by frosty air, which settles in low-lying areas. Pears should be grown in heavier soil types such as clayey loam with porous subsoil, or medium or sandy loam. Pear trees will not survive on ground that is saturated with water. Pear trees may be planted in the fall in mild climates or the spring in cooler ones. They should be set 20 feet apart, except the more vigorous varieties, which need to be spaced 25 feet apart. Trees that are grafted on dwarf Quince roots only need 12 to 15 feet apart and care should be taken that the point where the scion and stock meet is a few inches above the ground to prevent the scion from developing its own roots and becoming a full sized tree. Soak the roots in water for 30 to 60 minutes before setting in the ground. The hole for the tree should be large enough to spread the roots about naturally. The soil should be worked in and around the roots to eliminate air pockets. There shouldn't be a depression around the tree when you have finished planting and the tree should be set at the same level as it was previously growing. Water the tree thoroughly and check for air pockets, carefully lifting the tree to the correct level if it settles.
Fertilization - When fertilizing your trees it is important not to cause overactive growth, which makes them more susceptible to the fire blight. When the tree is first planted, a half-cup of a balanced fertilizer may be placed in a 2-foot circle around the tree at least 6 inches from the trunk. This is done each spring until the fourth year at which time 2 cups may be set around the tree each spring.
Pruning - Pruning, which should mainly be done in the winter, should be light and just enough to develop a strong tree that is able to handle the weight of the fruits. When a one-year-old tree is first planted, it should be cut back to 3½ or 4 feet high and all side branches should be removed; this is done to compensate for the loss of roots during the planting process. At the end of the growing season, 4 to 6 main branches are chosen. They should be pointing in different directions and spaced about 6 inches apart. Remove the other branches. Pruning the subsequent years should be light and consist of producing a well-shaped tree with strong branches. Weak crotches are liable to breakage as they grow heavier; this can be prevented by cutting off one of the branches while it is young. On trees that are at fruit-bearing age, central branches that are thin and weak should be removed as well as any that are blight-infected.
Pollination - Pears are self-sterile and need more than one variety planted within 40 or 50 feet of each other in order to cross-pollinate. Seckel and Bartlett do not pollinate each other; therefore, they will need another variety for pollination to occur.
Thinning & Harvest - In order to produce large fruit and prevent branches from breaking, the fruit will need to be thinned before mid-summer. One pear should be left per cluster and the clusters should be approximately 6 inches apart. Remove the excess pears carefully to avoid damaging the others. Hold the stem with the thumb and index finger and push the pear off the stem with the other fingers to leave the stem attached to the spur. Pears are harvested greener than other fruits because they ripen better off rather than on the trees. Pears that are allowed to ripen on the tree turn brown at the core. Care must be taken when picking Pears because they have tender skin. They will ripen at room temperature in 1 or 2 weeks. Unripened pears should be stored as close to 32º F as possible.
Ornamental - Pear trees grown for ornament can live in any fertile soil, especially one that is loamy. They should be in a location with full sun exposure. These varieties can survive times of drought, cold and air pollution, but will not tolerate dry, waterlogged, or alkaline soil. Pruning, when needed, should be done in early spring or winter and this consists of removing the lower branches of young trees so that there is headroom under them.
Edible Fruit - The best method is to bud or graft the blight-resistant variety on P. communis roots, grow that tree for a few years and then top-graft with the desired variety leaving the long, main branches of the blight-resistant variety. Dwarf Pear trees are produced by grafting varieties onto the Angers Quince rootstock; however, some varieties do not grow well on Quince roots, therefore an intermediate variety is grafted on the Quince roots and on this the desired Pear variety is grafted. Beurre Bosc, Sheldon and Winter Nelis are varieties that won't grow on the Quince roots.
Edible Fruit - Bartlett; Beurre Bosc; Beurre d'Anjou; Clairgeau; Clapp Favorite; Comice; Dana Hovey; Ewart; Flemish Beauty; Giffard; Gorham; Seckel; Sheldon; Tyson; Winter Nelis. (The following varieties are blight-resistant enough to be grown in the warmer parts of the eastern U.S.) Kiiefer; Garber; Le Conte; Pineapple; Douglas; Waite.
Ornamental - P. communis; P. betulifolia; P. amygdaliformis; P. salicifolia; P. pyrifolia; P. sinensis; P. Pashia; P. elaeagrifolia; P. nivalis; P. ussuriensis; P. Calleryana & var. Bradford, Chanticleer, Red Spire, Whitehouse, Trinity, Valzam, Mepozam, Gladzam, Fronzam, Fauriei, Edgewood, Capital, Bursnozam, Aristocrat, Autumn Blaze.
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