Pyrus communis

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Fruits and foliage
© Gil Wojciech, Polish Forest Research Institute,

Local names:
English (european pear,cultivated pear,common pear), French (poirier), German (birnenbaum,birne,birnbaum), Japanese (seiyo-nashi), Portuguese (pereira), Spanish (peral,pera)

Pyrus communis is a deciduous small to medium-sized tree to 10 m tall (normally 3-5 m in cultivation), with a pyramidally shaped crown. The conical erect trunk bears small, reddish-brown, narrow-angled branches. The grey-brown bark has shallow furrows and flat-topped scaly ridges.

Leaves alternate, simple, elliptic/ovate with a finely serrated margin, obtuse tips, 2.5-10 cm long and 3-5 cm wide, shiny green above, paler and dull below, glabrous. The petioles are stipulate and the buds are involute, with imbricate scales.

Flower corymbose inflorescences, 5-7.5 cm wide, containing 5-7 showy white, 2.5-3.5 cm wide flowers, borne from terminal, mixed buds of short spurs, appearing before or with the leaves. The spurs are very short and lateral branches. The ovary is epigynous, or inferior, with the 5-carpellate ovary embedded in receptacle tissue, containing up to 10 ovules (2 per carpel); peduncle thin, 2.5-5 cm long. 

Fruit a pyriform (pear-shaped) pome with persistent or deciduous calyx, 4-12 cm long, greenish colored, dry and gritty.

Seed blackish, 8.4 by 4.8 mm, each with a thin layer of endosperm.

Pyrus is a latin classic name for pear tree while communis is of the latin meaning common current.

The genus Pyrus (24 primary species) is in the subfamily Pomoideae, along with apple, loquat, medlar and quince. The genus Pyrus probably originated in the mountain regions of what is now western and southernwestern China and evolved and spread eastward and westward. The species P. communis possibly is derived from the species Pyrus nivalis Jacq. and Pyrus caucàsica Fed.  Many improved named varieties have been derived from this species.


P. communis is a tree of warm temperate and subtropical regions. Pyrus communis L. does not occur in the wild, and possibly it is derived from P. caucasia and P. nivalis Jacq. (snow pear) progenitors are native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor near the Mediterranean.

Native range
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Russian Federation, Turkey

Tree management

Trees are spaced at 7.5 x 7.5 m for the more vigorous varieties. 
The seedling should be about 65 to 75 cm high at time of planting. 
All fruit are borne on spurs on 2- to 6-year-old wood. Older wood and spurs give smaller fruit than those on 2- to 4-year-old wood. Clean pruning cuts and excess spurs should be cut off smoothly so stubs will not rub and damage fruit. It is advisable to maintain individual tree spacing and avoid tight hedgerows for good fruit color and long-lived productive orchards. 

Intially a half-cup of a balanced fertilizer may be placed in a 60 cm circle around the tree at least 15 cm 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, which should mainly be done in December to February, 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 1 or 1.2 m high and all side branches should be removed. 

The best thinning usually requires two times to effectively leave no more than one fruit per spur, and if spurs are close together well thinned fruit are spaced 10 to 15 cm apart. Thinning up to 30 days before harvest can benefit size, but early thinning is essential for annual bearing and good fruit sizes. Crop loads of 200 to 400 fruit per tree are common on 8- to 10-year-old trees.

The mature fruits are picked from trees or shaken to the ground. Seeds are recovered by macerating the fruit, drying the pulp, and using a screen to extract the seeds. Small quantities of seeds are effectively removed by carefully transversely cutting fruit to expose the locules. Each ripe fruit contains up to 10 smooth black (or nearly black) seeds, each with a thin layer of endosperm. There are about 22000 seeds/kg.  Pears are outcrossing species, so seedlings will not be identical to parental genotypes.

P. communis is a tree of warm temperate and subtropical regions. Pyrus communis L. does not occur in the wild, and possibly it is derived from P. caucasia and P. nivalis Jacq. (snow pear) progenitors are native to Eastern Europe and Asia Minor near the Mediterranean.

P. communis is normally propagated vegetatively by budding or grafting onto rootstocks but also with seeds

Seeds of pears extracted from fresh mature fruit in the fall or winter have dormant embryos that require stratification. Seed preparation for germination includes a thorough washing and  a day of water soaking prior to stratification. Seeds must be stratified for 90 days at about 4 deg. C. Germination require from 5 to 30 days at 20 deg. C. Because of the long stratification periods required for germination, official (ISTA – International Seed Testing Association) seed testing rules recommend tetrazolium staining or the excised embryo test. For the excised embryo test, embryos should be germinated for 10 to 14 days at alternating temperatures of 18/22 deg. C.

Stem cuttings is the most common propagation method, although root cuttings and suckers are sometimes used. Fruiting begins after 2 years for trees on dwarf rootstocks and 3-5 years for trees on more vigorous rootstocks.

Poison: Like apples, pears contain cyanogenic glucosides in seeds, which can be toxic if eaten in large quantities. Pear juice has been found to cause chronic, nonspecific diarrhea in infants and children. This stems from the abnormally high levels of fructose and sorbitol relative to glucose compared to other foods

 The fruit is eaten fresh, in fruit salads, or more rarely, canned. Sometimes, they are dried or candied. They are also used in jams and jellies

Timber: Its wood is brown-reddish, compacts, with several applications such as in furniture.

Shade or shelter: Provide shelter in the boundary planting system.

Medicine: The same antibiotic-like substance (phloretin) found in apple bark is present in bark of pear. 

Ornamental: The pendulous form of the willow-leaf pear makes it a unique ornamental landscape plant especially the flowering ornamental selections and the evergreen pear are widely planted as street trees in the United States

Intercropping: Other crops may be planted between the rows of the pears.