PEAR (Pyrus communis), a member of the natural order Rosaceae, belonging to the same genus as the apple (P. mains), which it resembles in floral structure. In both cases the socalled fruit is composed of the receptacle or upper end of the flower-stalk (the so-called calyx tube) greatly dilated, and enclosing within its cellular flesh the five cartilaginous carpels which constitute the " core " and are really the true fruit. From the upper rim of the receptacle are given off the five sepals, the five petals, and the very numerous stamens. The form of the pear and of the apple respectively, although usually characteristic enough, is not by itself sufficient to distinguish them, for there are pears which cannot by form alone be distinguished from apples, and apples which cannot by superficial appearance be recognized from pears. The main distinction is the occurrence in the tissue of the fruit, or beneath the rind, of clusters of cells filled with hard woody deposit in the case of the pear, constituting the " grit," while in the apple no such formation of woody cells takes place. The appearance of the tree the bark, the foliage, the flowers is, however, usually quite characteristic in the two species. Cultivated pears, whose number is enormous, are without doubt derived from one or two wild species widely distributed throughout Europe and western Asia, and sometimes forming part of the natural vegetation of the forests. In England, where the pear is sometimes considered wild, there is always the doubt that it may not really be so, but the produce of some seed of a cultivated tree deposited by birds or otherwise, which has degenerated into the wild spine-bearing tree known as Pyrus communis.
The cultivation of the pear extends to the remotest antiquity. Traces of it have been found in the Swiss lake-dwellings; it is mentioned in the oldest Greek writings, and was cultivated by the Romans. The word " pear " or its equivalent occurs in all the Celtic languages, while in Slavonic and other dialects different appellations, but still referring to the same thing, are found a diversity and multiplicity of nomenclature which led Alphonse de Candolle to infer a very ancient cultivation of the tree from the shores of the Caspian to those of the Atlantic. A certain race of pears, with white down on the under surface of their leaves, is supposed to have originated from P. nivalis, and their fruit is chiefly used in France in the manufacture of Perry (see CIDER). Other small-fruited pears, distinguished by their precocity and apple-like fruit, may be referred to P. cordaia, a species found wild in western France, and in Devonshire and Cornwall.
Karl Koch considered that cultivated pears were the descendants of three species P. persica (from which the bergamots have descended), P. elaeagrifolia and P. sinensis. J. Decaisnc, who made the subject one of critical study for a number of years, and not only investigated the wild forms, but carefully studied the peculiarities of the numerous varieties cultivated in the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, refers all cultivated pears to one species, the individuals of which have in course of time diverged in various directions, so as to form now six races: (l) the Celtic, including P. cordata; (2) the Germanic, including P. communis, P. achras, and P. piraster; (3) the Hellenic, including P. parviflora, P. sinaica and others; (4) the Pontic, including P. elaeagrifolia; (5) the Indian, comprising P . Paschae; and (6) the Mongolic, represented by P. sinensis. With reference to the Celtic race, P. cordata, it is interesting to note its connexion with Arthurian legend and the Isle of Avalon or Isle of Apples. An island in Loch Awe has a Celtic legend containing the principal features of Arthurian story; but in this case the word is " berries " instead of " apples." Dr Phen6 visited Armorica (Brittany) with a view of investigating these matters, and brought thence fruits of a small berry-like pear, which were identified with the Pyrus cordata of western France.
Cultivation. The pear may be readily raised by sowing the pips of ordinary cultivated or of wilding kinds, these forming what are known as free or pear stocks, on which the choicer varieties are grafted for increase. For new varieties the flowers should be fertilized with a view to combine, in the seedlings which result from the union, the desirable qualities of the parents. The dwarf and pyramid trees, more usually planted in gardens, are obtained by grafting on the quince stock, the Portugal quince being the best; but this stock, from its surface-rooting habit, is most suitable for soils of a cold damp nature. The pear-stock, having an inclination to send its roots down deeper into the soil, is the best for light dry soils, as the plants are not then so likely to suffer in dry seasons. Some of the finer pears do not unite readily with the quince, and in this case double working is resorted to; that is to say, a vigorous-growing pear is first grafted on the quince, and then the choicer pear is grafted on the pear introduced as its foster parent.
In selecting young pear trees for walls or espaliers, some persons prefer plants one year old from the graft, but trees two or three years trained are equally good. The trees should be planted immediately before or after the fall of the leaf. The wall trees require to be planted from 25 to 30 ft. apart when on free stocks, and from 15 to 20 ft. when dwarfed. Where the trees are trained as pyramids or columns they may stand 8 or 10 ft. apart, but standards in orchards should be allowed at least 30 ft., and dwarf bush trees half that distance.
In the formation of the trees the same plan may be adopted as in the case of the apple. For the pear orchard a warm situation is very desirable, with a soil deep, substantial, and thoroughly drained. Any good free loam is suitable, but a calcareous loam is the best. Pear trees worked on the quince should have the stock covered up to its junction with the graft. This is effected by raising up a small mound of rich compost around it. a contrivance which induces the graft to emit roots into the surface soil, and also keeps the stock from becoming hard or bark-bound. The fruit of the pear is produced on spurs, which appear on shoots more than one year old. The mode most commonly adopted of training wall pear-trees is the horizontal. For the slender twiggy sorts the fan form is to be preferred, while for strong growers the half-fan or the horizontal is more suitable. In the latter form old trees, the summer pruning of which has been neglected, are apt to acquire an undue projection from the wall and become scraggy, to avoid which a portion of the old spurs should be cut out annually.
The summer pruning of established wall or espalier-rail trees consists chiefly in the timely displacing, shortening back, or rubbing off of the superfluous shoots, so that the winter pruning, in horizontal training, is little more than adjusting the leading shoots and thinning out the spurs, which should be kept close to the wall and allowed to retain but two or at most three buds. In fan-training the subordinate branches must be regulated, the spurs thinned out, and the young laterals finally established in their places. When horizontal trees have fallen into disorder, the branches may be cut back to within 9 in. of the vertical stem and branch, and trained in afresh, or they may be grafted with other sorts, if a variety of kinds is wanted.
Summer and autumn pears should be gathered before they are fully ripe, otherwise they will not in general keep more than a few days. The Jargonelle should be allowed to remain on the tree and be pulled daily as wanted, the fruit from standard trees thus succeeding the produce of the wall trees. In the case of the Crassane the crop should be gathered at three different times, the first a fortnight or more before it is ripe, the second a week or ten days after that, and the third when fully ripe. The first gathering will come into eating latest, and thus the season of the fruit may be considerably prolonged. It is evident that the same method may be followed with other sorts which continue only a short time in a mature state.
Diseases. The pear is subject to several diseases caused by fungi. Gymnosporangium sabinae, one of the rusts (Uredineae) passes one stage of its life-history on living pear leaves, forming large raised spots or patches which are at first yellow but soon become red and are visible on both faces; on the lower face of each patch is a group of cluster-cups or aecidia containing spores which escape when ripe. This stage in the life-history was formerly regarded as a distinct fungus with the name Roestelia cancellata; it is now known, however, that the spores germinate on young juniper leaves, in which they give rise to this other stage in the plant's history known as Gymnosporangium. The gelatinous, generally reddish-brown masses of spores the teleutospores formed on the juniper in the spring germinate and form minute spores sporidia which give rise to the aecidium stage on the pear. Diseased pear leaves should be picked off and destroyed before the spores are scattered and the various species of juniper on which the alternate stage is developed should not be allowed near the pear trees.
Pear scab is caused by a parasitic fungus, Fusidadium pyrinum, very closely allied and perhaps merely a form of the apple scab fungus, F. dendriticum. As in the case of the apple disease it forms large irregular blackish blotches on the fruit and leaves, the injury being often very severe especially in a cool, damp season. The fungus mycelium grows between the cuticle and the epidermis, the former being ultimately ruptured by numerous short branches bearing spores ( conidia) by means of which the disease is spread. As a preventive repeated spraying with dilute Bordeaux mixture is recommended, during the flowering season and early development of the fruit. Similar spraying is recom(From a specimen in the British Museum.) mended for pear-leaf blister Pear Scab (Fusidadium pyrinum). caused by Taphrina buttata, 1 . Leaf showing diseased areas. !? * forms s ^ ollen areas on 2, Section of leaf surface showing the ^, SQ fae attackdb spores or conidia, c, borne on long var ; etv of : t stalks (conidiophores) X25O. the y O u n g er bran injured by the pearl oyster scale (Aspidiotus ostreaeformisi^Uch may be removed by washing in winter with soft soap and hot water. A number of larvae of Lepidoptera feed on the leaves the remedy is to capture the mature insects when possible. The winter moth (Cheimatobia brumata) must be kept in check by putting greasy bands round the trunks from October till December or January, to catch the wingless females that crawl up and deposit their eggs in the cracks and crevices in the bark. The caterpillars of the leopard moth (Zeuzera pyrina) and of the goat moth (Cossus ligniperda) sometimes bore their way into the trunks and destroy the sap channels. If badly bored, the trees are useless; but in Pear-leaf Cluster-cups (Gymnosporangium sabinae).
I. Leaf showing groups of cups or aecidia. 2, Early stage of disease. 3, Cups enlarged X 5.
the early stages if the entrance of the caterpillars has been detected, a wire should be pushed into the hole. One of the worst pests of pear trees is the pear midge, known as Diplosis pyrivora or Cecidomyia nigra, the females of which lay their eggs in the flowerbuds before they open. The yellow maggots devour the seeds and thus ruin the crop. When deformed fruits are noticed they should be picked off and burned immediately. Species of aphides may be removed by tobacco infusion, soapsuds or other solutions. A gall mite (Phytoptus pyri) sometimes severely injures the leaves, on which it forms blisters the best remedy is to cut off and burn the diseased leaves.
The Alligator or Avocado Pear is Persea gratissima, a member of the natural order Lauraceae, and a native of the West Indies and other parts of tropical America. It is a tree of 25 to 30 ft. high and bears large pear-shaped fruits, green or deep purple in colour, with a firm yellowish-green marrow-like pulp surrounding a large seed. The pulp is much esteemed in the West Indies and is eaten as a salad, usually with the addition of pepper, salt and vinegar. The pulp contains much oil, which is used for lighting and soap-making, and the seeds yield a deep indelible black stain which is used for marking linen.
Prickly pear is the popular name for species of Opunlia (see CACTUS).
The name wooden pear is applied to the fruits of Xylotnelum (nat. ord. Proteaceae), an Australian genus of trees with very thick, woody, inversely pear-shaped fruits which split into two parts when ripe.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)