Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Search Results for: Pyrus | Search the catalog for: Pyrus

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Rhamnus purshiana, Pyrus, Nyssa, Hovenia, Oxydendrum arboreum, Cornus nuttallii, Malus, Crataegus, Native plants--Care and maintenance, Quercus, Prunus, Acer

Can you recommend some tree species (deciduous) that can have wet feet but will also tolerate dry conditions in the summer? The recommendations should be trees that are not too messy (no cottonwoods or alders, please) and not too big. I would like to plant some trees near a swale in my yard - so they could be sitting in soggy ground during the winter.


Following is a list of possibilities, most of which come from Water Conserving Plants for the Pacific Northwest West of the Cascades (by the N.W. Perennial Alliance, 1993). The list includes only trees that 1) thrive in soils which are waterlogged in the winter, and, 2) grow to less than 40 feet tall.

ACER (maple):
A. buergeranum (trident maple)
A. campestre (field maple)
A. ginnala (Amur maple)
A. circinatum (vine maple)
CORNUS nuttallii (western dogwood)
C. douglasii (black hawthorn)
C. monogyna
C. phaenopyrum (Washington thorn)
C. x lavallei (Carriere hawthorn)
HOVENIA dulcis (Japanese raisin tree)
MALUS fusca (Pacific crab apple)
NYSSA sylvatica (black gum)
OXYDENDRUM arboreum (sourwood)
PRUNUS (prune/plum/cherry):
P. virginiana var. melanocarpa (chokecherry)
P. emarginata (bitter cherry)
PYRUS (pear):
P. communis (common pear)
P. pyrifolia (Chinese pear, sand pear)
QUERCUS (oak):
Q. acutissima (sawtooth oak)
Q. imbricaria (shingle oak)
RHAMNUS purshiana (cascara)

Date 2019-09-19
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Failure to flower, Pyrus, Corylus, Prunus

I planted numerous fruit trees about 7 years ago. These included almond, pear, apple, hazelnut, and plum. The almond and apple trees have done really well.

The pear, plum, and hazelnut trees have never even bloomed, let alone borne fruit. Am I doing something wrong or do I just need to be a little more patient?


All of your trees should be mature enough to flower and bear fruit, given the right conditions. There are many potential causes of failure to flower. Are your trees that have not flowered in a location that receives high nitrogen fertilizer (such as near a lawn)? This would lead to lots of leafy growth at the expense of flowers. Cold winter weather can also damage buds and lead to no flowers.

The lack of fruit could be due to lack of pollination in addition to the causes listed above. Do you have two or more pears (Pyrus) and hazelnuts (Corylus)? Is your plum (Prunus) a variety that needs a pollenizer, or is it self-fertile? Raintree Nursery has information on flowering and fruiting for Corylus that says"Two different varieties or seedlings of similar flowering period," are needed, and that "European Filbert flowers winterkill at -15 F. Others are hardier."

Oregon State University Extension has fruit pollination charts, and there is an example from Burnt Ridge Nursery for European pears. At the very bottom of the webpage linked below, you can find Raintree Nursery's pollination charts for various fruits and nuts.

General information from University of Vermont Extension on failure to flower and failure to bear fruit from Washington State University Extension.

Date 2019-08-23
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Fruit trees--Cross-pollination, Pyrus

I am looking for a European variety of pear tree that cross-pollinates with an Asian pear tree. I thought I'd heard that Bartlett pear trees can pollinate an early blooming Asian pear. Is this right?


The University of California, Davis Fruit & Nut Research Center indicates that European pears may be used for cross-pollination with Asian pear.
"Pollination: Asian pear varieties are partially self-fruitful but better crops are set where two or more varieties are planted together. In Fresno and Tulare counties, 20th Century or Shinseiki are known to set good crops when planted alone in large one-variety blocks. In areas with cooler temperatures at bloom-time, cross-pollination by European or Asian pear varieties will be necessary. Cross-pollinated fruit with seed tend to be larger and more uniformly round than fruit with few seeds due to inadequate pollination."

Washington State University's Tree Fruit site shows which European pears will be compatible pollenizers for specific varieties of Asian pear. (click on the plus sign to expand the information on pollination for pears)
It indicates that Bartlett will work for Chojuro and Nijisseiki.

Washington State University's Fruit Handbook for Western Washington says "pears and Asian pears are genetically compatible, so they can cross-pollinate just the same as any varieties whose bloom periods overlap. It is, however, important to note some limitations. Asian pears (...) tend to bloom earlier as a group; furthermore, not all European pears are suitable pollenizers. Conference is a good early blooming pear that can pollinate Asian pears in most years (...) Pear flowers are not particularly attractive to bees, so for good pollination when growing pears and Asian pears, try to minimize the availability of other flowers (eg., dandelions) when pears are in bloom."

Date 2019-03-27
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pyrus, Harvesting time, Fruit ripening

I have several pear trees. I'm never sure when to pick the fruit--should it be picked when ripe, or can it be picked sooner and allowed to ripen off the tree? Any advice on storage after harvesting would also be helpful.


If you have European pears, and not Asian pears, they are best picked before they are fully ripe. University of California, Davis Integrated Pest Management has basic information on harvesting pears. Excerpt:
"European pear varieties ripen best off the tree. Fruit that is left on the tree doesn't develop full flavor. Pick the fruit when it is green and hard but of mature size for the variety. The stem should break off the spur easily when the fruit is twisted upward. If the spur breaks off the tree, the fruit is not ready to pick. Allow the fruit to ripen in a cool place in a fruit ripening bowl or paper bag. You may store fall-ready varieties for several weeks in cold storage (below 40 degrees F) and bring them out for ripening at room temperature.
Asian varieties should be allowed to ripen on the tree. The fruit will generally turn from green to yellow and the flesh should be sweet and juicy. Asian pears will hold on the tree for quite a while after they have ripened. It is better however, to keep them in cold storage until ready to eat. Asian pears can be stored for several months, depending on variety."

Oregon State University Extension has an article by Robert Stebbins and others (Picking and Storing Apples and Pears) listing different varieties of pear (and apple) and the best times to harvest and their average life in storage at different temperatures.

Here is more on picking and storing pears from a no longer available article by Carol Savonen with information from Oregon State University Extension agent David Sugar.
"Pears picked when slightly immature will ripen with better quality than pears that are over mature when picked. To tell if a pear is mature, a general rule of thumb is that, while still on the tree, most mature, ready to ripen pears will usually detach when 'tilted' to a horizontal position from their usual vertical hanging position. Bosc pears always are difficult to separate from the spur.
"Unlike apples, which are ready to eat from the day they are picked, pears must go through a series of changes before they can deliver their full splendor," explained Sugar. "Pears do not ripen on the tree to our liking. If allowed to tree-ripen, pears typically ripen from the inside out, so that the center is mushy by the time the outside flesh is ready.
"Commercial pears are harvested when they are 'mature,' he continued. "In pear language, that means they are picked when they have reached the point where they will ripen to good quality, sometimes with a little help, but definitely OFF the tree.
"'So the frequently heard notion that pears are picked when they are still hard and green as a convenience for enduring the long truck ride to market misses the point,' Sugar quipped.
"Once commercial pears are picked, growers cool them down to about 30 degrees F. They don't freeze at this temperature, because the fruit sugar acts like an antifreeze.
"'The colder the pears are, the longer they'll stay in good condition,' said Sugar. 'In fact, they actually need to be cooled in order to ripen properly.'
"Bartlett pears need to be cooled only for a day or two, and winter pears such as Anjou, Bosc and Comice require 2 to 6 weeks for optimal effect, he said.
"'Without this chilling process, a mature picked pear will just sit and sit and eventually decompose without ever ripening,' explained Sugar.'Pear ripening must be closely watched (...) There is a relatively narrow window between "too hard" and "too soft" where the perfect pear texture lies.' Sugar recommends ripening pears at 65 to 75 degrees F for the following times: Bartlett, 4 to 5 days, Bosc and Comice, 5 to 7 days; and Anjou, 7 to 10 days. The longer the time the pears have spent in cold storage, the shorter the time to ripen them. 'As ripening begins, pears produce ethylene gas, a ripening hormone, inside the fruit. This speeds the ripening along. The ripening time gets shorter as the time since harvest passes.'
"Pear lovers can 'kick start' the pear ripening process by putting freshly bought or newly harvested pears in a paper bag with a ripe banana or an apple, both of which give off copious quantities of ethylene gas. The bag keeps the gas near the pears, which soak it up and quickly begin producing their own.
"How do you tell when a pear is ripened to perfection? 'Hold the pear gently but firmly in the palm of your hand, as a baseball pitcher might hold the ball while studying signs from the catcher,' recommended Sugar. 'Apply the thumb of that same hand to the pear flesh just below the point where the stem joins the fruit. When the flesh beneath your thumb yields evenly to gentle pressure, it is time to eat your pear. If you have to push more than slightly, it is not ready yet.'"

Date 2019-09-11
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pyrus, Grafting

Can I graft an Asian pear onto Anjou rootstock?


Anjou is a European pear variety, and European pears are the species Pyrus communis, which is not an acceptable rootstock for Asian pears, according to a Pacific Northwest Extension publication by Robert Stebbins on "Choosing Pear Rootstocks for the Pacific Northwest." Here is an excerpt:
"Asian pear trees require rootstocks that impart a high state of vigor. No Pyrus communis rootstocks are vigorous enough for most Asian pears, with the possible exception of the most vigorous Old Home x Farmingdale clones. Asian pears require vigorous rootstocks such as P. betulaefolia or P. calleryana. Unfortunately, their cold-hardiness isn't well-known."

Date 2019-10-31
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Failure to fruit, Fruit trees--Cross-pollination, Pyrus, Fungal diseases of plants

I have a 'Rescue' pear which has gotten pear rust. It is about 3 years old. I also have an 'Orca' pear tree that so far this season does not have rust. Last year we had terrible rust. We thought maybe it came from a secondary host, because there were Juniper bushes. Now those bushes are all gone and I did clean up the leaves from last year to try and avoid contamination from the rust.

Also, I have never gotten any pears on either tree. The Orca tree is a bit older, about 5 years old. They both were bought from Raintree Nursery.


Sorry to hear about your pear with rust, and about the lack of fruit. Washington State University's HortSense website says there are two types of rust that affect pears in our area:
"Two pear rusts which occur in Washington are Pacific Coast pear rust and pear trellis rust. Both require an alternate host. The rust fungus causing Pacific Coast pear rust is also found on hawthorn, apple, crabapple, serviceberry, quince, and mountain ash. The alternate host is the incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), which develops witches' brooms. Infected fruits of pear are deformed and drop prematurely. On the surface of the fruit, yellowish spots with cup-shaped pustules develop. Leaves and green shoots may also be infected. Symptoms are most obvious after flowering and before July. Pear trellis rust may also infect pears, causing reddish to orange blotches on leaves. The alternate host is juniper, which develops elongate, swollen galls along branches."

The only controls they recommend are cultural:

  • Avoid susceptible varieties such as 'Winter Nelis'.
  • Collect and destroy fallen fruit beneath trees.
  • Plant resistant varieties such as 'Bartlett'.
  • Prune out and destroy rust-infected tissues in pears and alternate hosts.
  • Remove alternate hosts in the vicinity of pear trees, when practical.

Here is an article from British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food on managing this disease in the home orchard.

It sounds as if you are doing everything you can to prevent a recurrence. The web resource above also states that fungicide is probably not a worthwhile approach to managing rust on pears or junipers.

As for the lack of fruit on your trees, Raintree's pollination chart shows that 'Rescue' and 'Orcas' should cross-pollinate. It is possible that the 'Rescue' pear is not mature enough, or that its bout with disease slowed it down. Here is an article about failure to produce fruit, from University of Maine. It mentions possibilities such as immature tree(s), lack of sun, and frost damage to flower buds.

I have an 'Orcas' growing without other pears in the garden, and yet it produces fruit, so I wonder if something else may be happening. Do you have a good number of bees and other pollinators in your garden? Do you or nearby households use pesticides that might interfere with pollinators? Here is information on protecting and encouraging pollinators, from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

I also recommend contacting Raintree to see if they have any advice.

Date 2019-04-05
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pyrus, Fall foliage

Which semi-dwarf pear tree should I plant to get good fall color? I want to eat the fruit and have beautiful yellow to red fall leaves in my landscape.


Not many of our resources on pears describe the color of the fall foliage, as they tend to focus on the taste and appearance of the fruit. However, I did consult Lee Reich's Landscaping with Fruit (Storey Publishing, 2009), and on page 146 he features "seasons of visual interest." Here is what the author has to say:
"Come autumn, leaves of many pear varieties, including many Asian varieties and such Europeans as 'Colmar d'Ete,' 'Durandeau,' and 'Triomphe de Vienne,' take on very attractive coloration. Ripening pears among the leaves, especially yellow varieties, also contribute to the show."

I suspect that the varieties mentioned above are heritage varieties that may be challenging to find. You might find these links of interest:

By doing an internet search, I came across a reference in a book entitled Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Debbie Lonnee et al. On page 233, the authors mention that the variety 'Golden Spice' has "nice fall color." The 'Luscious' variety is said to "turn a nice red in fall." This book confirms what I have read elsewhere, which is that ornamental pear trees are better known for their fall color.

Another approach would be to talk to pear vendors at farmers markets or talk directly to fruit farmers in your area, and ask if there are particular varieties which are notable for their autumn foliage.

An additional consideration is choosing pears which are late-ripening. If you want the fall color to coincide with the pears, you should probably choose a late-ripening variety. Pears are harvested before they are fully ripe, so later varieties will give you a better chance of night temperatures being sufficiently cool for leaves to begin changing color. Oregon State University's publication, "Picking and Storing Apples and Pears," by R. L. Stebbins et al., has additional details on different pear varieties.

Date 2019-06-06
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Pyrus, Malus, Tree identification, Prunus

Is it possible that I'm seeing cherry trees flowering this early (mid-February)? Some have white flowers, and some are pink.


It is certainly true that things may be flowering early when we have a mild winter. In 2014, the famous cherry blossoms in the University of Washington's Quad began opening on March 13, and the winter of 2015 has been warmer, so they may be opening earlier than that. While it is possible you are seeing flowering ornamental cherries (Prunus species), they are easily confused with their cousins in the same genus, flowering ornamental plums--extremely common street trees in Seattle--most of which are definitely flowering now. Ornamental pears (Pyrus) are also flowering now. They have white petals, and might be mistaken for cherry trees as well but the distinctive odor of pear blossoms is a big clue to their true identity: acrid, astringent, and just plain stinky! Seattle's City Fruit website has a guide to spring-blossoming ornamental and fruit-bearing trees that is helpful.

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival offers some pointers on how to tell the difference between cherry and plum blossoms. Most cherry blossoms aren't noticeably fragrant, while plum blossoms are fragrant. Cherry blossoms usually have small splits or indentations at the ends of their petals. Note, however, that the book Japanese Flowering Cherries by Wybe Kuitert (Timber Press, 1999) says cherry "petals are mostly [emphasis mine] retuse," that is, not all of them have a shallow notch or split on the ends of the petals.

Project BudBurst, a citizen-science phenology project, has information on identifying cherry trees. There is also a guide to telling the difference between cherry and apple blossoms (apple blossoms have 3 to 5 styles whereas cherries have one). And what is a style? It is the part of the pistil between the stigma and the ovary.

According to the British Natural History Museum, one unifying characteristic of cherries is "flowers in clusters with stalks all arising from a central point, or arranged along a short stem, or in spikes."

Date 2019-03-14
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