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THE COMMON PEAR-TREE.
LINNÆUS, Species Plantarum.
Engravings. Lindley, Pomologia Britannica ; Hoffy, Orchardists' Companion ; Loudon, Arboretum Britannicum, vi., pl. 166, 167, et 168; and the figures below. Specific Characters. Branches and buds glabrous. Leaves ovate, serrated, glabrous upon both surfaces.
Flowers corymbose.—De Candolle, Prodromus.
" The juicy pear
a wild state,
Wool has a pyramidal shaped head, with thorny branches, at first erect, and afterwards pendulous or curved downwards. When cultivated under favourable circumstances, it will sometimes attain a height of fifty or sixty feet, and a diameter of eighteen to thirty-six inches. The roots, which are not numerous, descend perpendicularly, and have but few lateral ramifications, except in shallow and rich soil. The leaves vary exceedingly in different soils, and in different parts of the globe. In Britain, and in the temperate regions of North America, they are generally green, slightly tomentose, and do not greatly vary in size; but in the woods of Poland, and in the vast steppes of Russia, those of the wild pear-trees are commonly white with down, and vary so exceedingly in their size and forms, as to include what are called the “willow-leaved,” the “ sage-leaved," and the narrow-leaved” varieties, which, by many, are regarded as species. The blossoms of the pear, which are scentless, and of a pure white, appear in the warmer parts of Britain, and in the southern counties of Ohio, by the middle of April; in Sweden, and in Massachusetts, by the 20th of May; at Perth Amboy, in New Jersey, the 10th of May, and at Naples, in Italy, six weeks earlier. The fruit, in a wild state, is seldom more than a fourth part of the size of the ordinary cultivated varieties; and is also austere and unfit to eat. For a comparison of this fruit with the apple, the reader is referred to our description of the latter, under the head of "Pyrus malus."
Varieties. Dé Candolle describes two forms of the wild species, comparatively
permanent; to which Mr. Loudon added several others, the result of cultivation, and which he considers as more or less accidental or temporary. To these we have subjoined a group of wild pears, with hoary leaves, which may be regarded as varieties or races, though commonly treated as species :
1. P. C. ACHRAS. The Spiny-leaved Pear-tree. This variety may be known by its spiny, ovate, acuminate, entire leaves, with long petioles. The leaves and the tube of the calyx are woolly, when young, but afterwards glabrous. Pome with its basal part long.
2. P. C. PYRASTER. The Wild Acerb-fruited Pear-tree, distinguished by its spiny branches, roundish, acute, sharply-serrated leaves, glabrous even when young, as is the tube of the calyx. Pome rounded at the base, gritty, sour, bitter, and harsh to the taste.
3. P. c. FOLIIS VARIEGATIS. Variegated-leaved Pear-tree.
4. P. C. FRUCTU VARIEGATO. Variegated-fruited Pear-tree, the skin of the fruit of which is variegated with yellow and white.
5. P. c. SANGUINOLENTA. The Sanguinole Pear-tree, the flesh of the fruit of which is red or reddish; and, though small and gritty, is edible when ripe.
6. P. c. FLORE PLENO. Double-flowered Pear-tree; Poirier de l'Arménie, of the French, distinguished for its double flowers.
7. P. C. JASPIDA. The Jasper-barked Pear-tree; Bon Chrétien à bois jaspé, of the French, having the bark of the wood striped with yellow.
8. P. c. SATIVA. The Spineless cultivated Pear-tree, from which originated the numerous sub-varieties growing in gardens, with edible fruit. Their number at present amount to several thousand, and it is to be regretted that the speciality of this work will not permit us to treat of them in detail, after the manner of describing the different varieties of the common cherry.
9. P. C. SALVIFOLIA, (P. salvifolia, De Candolle,) Sage-leaved or Aurelian Peartree, with thick branches; tomentose buds; entire lanceolate leaves, tomentose all over when young, but glabrous on the upper surface when adult. Its fruit is thick, long, and suitable for making perry. It occurs both wild and cultivated, about Aurelia, in France.
10. P. C. NIVALIS (P. nivalis, De Candolle.) Snowy-leaved Pear-tree, with leaves oval, entire, obtuse, white and silky beneath; corymbs terminal; fruit globose, very acid, except when ripe, and beginning to decay, when it becomes sweet. It is a native of the Austrian Alps.
11. P. C. SALICIFOLIA (P. salicifolia, De Candolle.). Willow -leaved Pear-tree. The buds of this variety are whitely tomentose; the leaves linear-lanceolate, acute, entire, hoary, particularly upon the under surface, with their disks three times as long as the petioles; the flowers occur upon short pedicels, disposed in corymbs. It is a native of Siberia, Caucasus, and Persia, and is generally accompanied by the Cratægus oxycantha, and Prunus spinosa. 12. P. C. AMYGDALIFORMIS, (P. amygdaliformis
, De Candolle,) Almond-shaped Pear-tree, the branches of which are spiny; the buds tomentose; the leaves oblong, acute, entire, tomentose all over when young, but glabrous on the upper surface when adult, with disks six times longer than the petioles; the flowers occur in corymbs. It grows wild in rough places in Provence, Dauphiny, and Languedoc, in France, and when cultivated, forms a tree with a very irregular, picturesque head, with many of the side-branches sweeping the ground.
Geography and History. The common pear-tree is indigenous to Europe, western Asia, the Himalayas, and to China; but not to Africa nór America. It is found wild in most of the counties of Britain, as far north as Forfarshire; on the continent of Europe, from Sweden to the Mediterranean; and in Asia, as far east as China and Japan. It is always found on a dry soil, and more frequently on plains than on hills or mountains; and solitary, or in small groups, rather than in woods and forests. The varieties cultivated for their fruit succeed both in the temperate and transition zones of the two hemispheres, and it has been remarked that this tree, as well as the apple and the cherry, will grow in the open air, wherever the oak will thrive.
The earliest writers mention the pear as growing abundantly in Syria, Egypt, and in Greece; and it appears to have been brought into Italy from these places about the time that Sylla made himself master of the last-named country, although there is but little doubt that the Romans had several kinds of this fruit long before that time. Among the trees which Homer describes as forming the orchard of Laertes, the father of Ulysses, we find the pear. Theophrastus speaks of the productiveness of old pear-trees; and Virgil mentions some pears which he received from Cato. Pliny describes the varieties in cultivation, in his time, as being exceedingly numerous, and says that a fermented liquor was made of the expressed juice. “Both apples and pears," he says, “ have the properties of wine, on which account the physicians are careful how they give them to their patients; but when sodden in wine and water, they are esteemed as wholesome.” Again, he observes,—"All pears whatsoever are but a heavy meat, even to those in good health, and the sick are debarred from eating them; and yet, if they are well boiled or baked, they are exceedingly pleasant, and moderately wholesome; when sodden or baked with honey, they agree with the stomach.” According to Pownell, the cultivated pear was imported into Marseilles by the Phocæan colonists, sometime during the middle ages; and Whitaker thinks that it was introduced into Britain by the Romans, but at what period, although it is mentioned by all the early writers of that country, we have no account. It was the opinion of Mr. Loudon, that all the wild pears growing in England, originated from the seeds of the cultivated sorts, accidentally disseminated by birds.
The pear-tree is of great longevity, and all writers on the subject, from Theophrastus to the present day, agree that, as the tree grows old, it increases in fruitfulness, which is indeed the case with many other trees. In corroboration of these views, Mr. Loudon states that, “In Nottinghamshire, at Old Baseford, there is a pear-tree, of the kind known as the brown dominion, which, in 1826, was upwards of a century old. It is forty feet high, with a head fifty-four feet in diameter, and a trunk two feet three inches in diameter. From 1806 to 1826, the produce of this tree, on an average, was fifty pecks of pears a year. In the year 1823, it bore one hundred and seven pecks, each peck containing four hundred and twenty pears; and in 1826, it produced one hundred pecks of two hundred and seventy-nine pears each; which, when gathered, weighed twenty pounds each peck; making a total of a ton weight of pears in one year. As the tree grows older, the fruit becomes larger and finer; so that it requires more than one hundred pears less to fill the peck now, than it did twenty-six years ago. The increase in the size of the fruit is doubtless, owing to the field in which the tree stands being frequently top-dressed with manure.”
In Duncumb's “General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hereford,” published in 1805, there is recorded a very extraordinary tree, growing on the glebe land of the parish of Hom-Lacey, that more than once filled fifteen hogsheads with perry in the same year. When the branches of this tree, in its original state, became long and heavy, their extreme ends successively fell to the ground, and, taking fresh root at the several parts where they touched it, each branch became a new tree, and in its turn, produced others in the same way, covering at that time nearly half of an acre of land. "Being anxious to know the present state of this celebrated tree,” observes Mr. Loudon, " we wrote to a highly valued friend, residing at Hereford, respecting it, and we have been favoured with the following reply I have been this morning to see the farfamed pear-tree. It once covered an acre of land, and would have extended years old.*
much further, had nature been left to her own operations. It is now not a quarter the size it once boasted; but it looks healthy and vigorous, and when I saw it, it was covered with luxuriant blossoms. The original trunk is still remaining; and there are young shoots which are only yet approaching the ground, but which seem nearly ready to take root in it. The tree would completely have covered the vicarage garden, if it had been allowed to remain. It is said to have been in its greatest perfection about 1776 or 1777. There is another tree of the same kind in the neighbourhood.—Hereford, May 18, 1836.”.
In Scotland, at Restalrig, near Edinburgh, in a garden adjacent to what was the house of Albert Logan, who was attainted in the reign of James VI., (of Scotland, and First of England, there is a pear-tree, which was probably planted before his forfeiture. It is of the kind called "Golden Knap," which, in that part of the country, is generally considered as the best variety to plant for timber. At two and a half feet from the ground, in 1836, it was four yards in circumference. Dr. Neill has mentioned a number of very old pear-trees, standing in the neighbourhood of Jedburgh Abbey, and in fields known to have been formerly the gardens of religious houses in Scotland, which were destroyed at the time of the “Reformation.” Such trees are, for the most part, in good health, and are abundant bearers; and as some of them must have been planted when the abbeys were built, they are probably from five to six hundred
The introduction of this fruit-tree into the North American colonies, probably dates back to the early periods of their settlements. There are at present existing in this country, many aged trees, celebrated for the improved excellence of their fruit, among which may be mentioned a venerable old tree, standing at the corner of the Third avenue and Thirteenth street, in the city of New York. It is said to have been planted in about the year 1646, by Peter Stuyvesant, then governor of New Netherlands, and has been a living witness of all the changes and political struggles through which this city has passed, for a period of nearly two hundred years. Although its trunk and larger branches are signally marked by the effects of time, it annually bears an abundance of delicious fruit, and at the present date, (April 17, 1845,) it is covered with a profusion of flowers. It is about forty feet in height, with a trunk one hundred inches in girth, at a yard above the ground.
Soil and Situation. The common pear-tree naturally requires a dry soil, and where it is intended to grow to a large size, and be productive, it should be deep and fertile. It has been remarked that a somewhat clayey soil is more favourable to the longevity of the tree than one that is loose and sandy, in consequence of the resistance it offers to the larvæ of insects, which attack its fruit, leaves, and wood, and which usually burrow below the surface, to transform. The same remark, it is said, holds true with regard to the apple, the mountain ash, (Pyrus aucuparia,) and other trees of this genus. "In respect to situation," Mr. Loudon observes, where the pear-tree is grown for timber, or its effect in landscape scenery, it may either be planted at regular distances, as in an orchard, in lines in a hedge-row, or in scattered groups. There are few trees better adapted for being grown in hedge-rows than the fastigiate-growing varieties of the pear, because their roots descend perpendicularly, and can, therefore, never interfere with the plough; and the heads, whether fastigiate or spreading, it is known from experience, do very little injury to pasture. If, therefore, fastigiategrowing trees, producing excellent sorts of fruit, were planted in all hedges, a very great benefit would result to the proprietors or to the public."
Propagation and Culture. The wild pear may be continued by seed; but the
See Loudon's Arboretum Britannicum, ii., p. 888.
varieties cultivated for their fruit are usually propagated by grafting and budding on stocks of its own kind, of the mountain ash, the quince, and those of several other trees. For the poorer soils, and exposed situations, stocks of the wild pear, the medlar, and several species of thorn, of the given locality, are thought to be best, on account of their hardihood; but it is found from experience, that, on good soils, or where the pear is to be cultivated entirely as a fruit-tree, both the tree and the fruit will grow larger when the stock is a seedling-pear of some vigorous-growing variety. Such stocks also throw the scions sooner into bearing than the wild ones, though they tend more to shorten the longevity of the trees. If grafted on the stocks of the quince, the medlar, the thorn, the mountain ash, or any species of sorbus, fine dwarf-trees may be obtained, which may be trained en quenouille, a mode much adopted at present, by the amateurs of Europe, and is also becoming common in the United States. The pear grows remarkably well on the common hawthorn, but if the graft is not made under ground, it does not form a very safe and durable tree; because, as the diameter of the scion increases faster than that of the stock, it is liable to be blown off by the wind. When the graft, however, is made close to the ground, or directly below its surface, the stock swells in nearly the same proportion as the scion, and there is but little danger of the tree being blown down, or of its not advancing to a considerable age. Whenever the grafted part of a tree has long been buried at some distance below the surface of the soil, the scion or upper part throws out new roots, which acquire, in time, so much vigour and strength, that those of the primitive stock gradually become decomposed, and serve for the nourishment of the future tree. This “re-rooting,” as it is termed, is of great advantage to trees occupying a soil not well adapted to their longevity or vigour, in which case, art should assist in the operation in the following manner, which we quote from the “Revue Horticole," as translated in Hovey's" Magazine of Horticulture,” for April, 1845, by Mr. A. J. Downing, of the botanic garden and nursery, at Newburgh, New York :-“At the time of planting the trees, the graft should be inserted a few inches below the surface of the soil; two or three years afterwards, **** at the time when the descending sap is most abundant, which is usually in July, the earth should be removed at the foot of each tree, so as to lay bare the swelling of the graft; after which, several incisions should be made with a sharp gouge, raising up from below several tongues of the thickness of the bark and alburnum; this operation will give them a concave form, of which the length will be at least double the width; these incisions should be multiplied, according to the size of the trees upon which the operation is performed; but more than a quarter of the bark should never be removed. These wounds should be immediately covered with the richest soil; one fourth cow-manure, to three-fourths of fresh loam, well mixed, are, in my opinion, the best and the simplest application; one or two shovels full of this mixture are sufficient to cause the tree to throw out a large quantity of roots, which, shooting down into the natural soil, sustain the life of the trees during a considerable time.” On this subject, Mr. Downing remarks, that, “generally speaking, it is a dangerous practice to plant a tree several inches lower than it stood in the nursery, so as to cover the union of the stock and graft. Many trees would languish and die, under such treatment, unless speedily re-established on the new roots. But this suggests a very excellent mode of grafting, that obviates all this difficulty, and which may indeed be considered the most perfect of all modes, viz., that of grafting on pieces of the root, instead of the whole stock; or cutting down small stocks quite to the root, and grafting considerably below the surface. This is now practised to some extent by many American nurserymen, in working the apple, and it might be carried further with success, as the re-rooting of grafts so inserted would, perhaps, generally take place without assistance."