common pear (Pyrus communis)
Pyrus communis var. sativa (DC.) DC.
Pyrus pyraster subsp. achras (Gaertn.) Terp
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
TAXONOMY: The currently scientifically accepted name for common
pear is Pyrus communis L. This species does not occur in nature. The
cultivated European pear (Pyrus communis subsp. communis) is thought
to be descended from two subspecies of wild pear, categorized as Pyrus
communis subsp. pyraster (syn. Pyrus pyraster) and Pyrus communis
subsp. caucasica (syn. Pyrus caucasica), which are interfertile with the
domesticated species. There are between 20 - 25 cultivars derived from
Pyrus communis, of which hte 'Bartlett' cultivar is the most common pear
cultivar in the world, and represents about 75% of U.S. pear production.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: A medium sized, up-
right growing tree, to 30 ft tall, generally 8-18 ft in cultivation. Typically
quite upright and conical with very narrow branch angles. Tree size is
heavily dependent on rootstock and training system. The bark is gray-
brown to reddish brown, becoming grayish brown with shallow furrows
and flat-topped scaly ridges. Twigs are glossy brown to reddish brown,
medium in texture, spur shoots present; terminal buds are medium in size
(less than 1/4 inch), conical to dome shaped, and may be lightly hairy.
Alternate, simple, elliptical to ovate with a finely serrated to entire mar-
gins, 1 to 4 inches in length, acute tips, shiny green above, paler and dull
below. Clusters of showy white flowers (each 1/2 to 3/4 inch across)
appearing before or with the leaves. Flowers are about 1" in diameter with
white petals, and similar to apple except for having longer pedicels. The
inflorescence is corymbose, containing 5-7 flowers (also different from
apple). Most cultivars require cross pollination for commercial fruit set.
Some cultivars are partially self-fruitful - 'Bartlett', 'Orient', 'Baldwin',
'Kieffer', 'Spalding'. Honey bees are the main pollinator. A pear-shaped
3 to 4inches pome. As in apple, the fleshy edible portion is derived from
hypanthium tissue. There are 5 central seed cavities, usually bearing 2
seeds each as in apple. The flesh contains grit cells (brachysclereids),
which are thick-walled, lignified cells that give the characteristic Euro-
pean pear flesh texture. Pears are thinned to 1-2 fruit per spur, spaced
REGENERATION PROCESS: Pyrus communis is commonly propa-
gated using rootstocks. Honey bees are the main pollinator.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Pears tolerate heavy, poorly drained soils
better than most tree fruits. However, productivity is best on deep, well-
drained loams with pH 6-7. Pears have very similar climatic requirements
to apples, but are much more prone to fire blight and therefore cannot
tolerate humid, wet springs.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Pyrus communis is rarely found in the wild.
As a culviated plant, successional status is not applicable.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Flowers in late winter or early spring;
fruit matures in late summer, early fall. There is some variation in seasonal
development among the many cultivars of Pyrus communis.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Pyrus communis is cultivated in all states
east of the Mississippi River and all the Pacifici coast states. It is also culti-
vated extensively in portions of the eastern Prairie states, southwest states,
and portions of the Rocky Mountain states.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: As a cultivated
plant that rarely intermingles with natural forest settings, habitat types
and plant communities are not relevant. Occassionally common pears
will be seen on old abandoned farms or orchards; they are capable of
continued growth for several decades.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers are attractive to bees, butter-
flies, and birds.
Like its relative the apple, the European pear is not found in the wild. Its
probable progenitors are native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor near the
Mediterranean, but it is not known when they may have hybridized to yield
Pyrus communis. The European pear has been selected and improved since
prehistoric times, and was cultivated in Europe in 1000 BC. Pears probably
came to the new world with the first settlers on the east coast, and spread
westward with pioneers. When moved to the Pacific northwest in the
1800s, European pears were able to escape fire blight, a serious bacterial
disease that limited pear cultivation in the east. Today, over 90% of the
pear crop is grown in the Pacific northwest, such as the Hood River Valley
of Oregon, and California. Pears are produced commercially in 81 countries
on 4.3 million acres.
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