Picture Perfect in Oysterville

Apr 3, 2016 | 6 comments

Our Pear Tree

Our Pear Tree

Our old Bosc pear tree is in full bloom right now – a sight to behold, for sure.  I think it is close to sixty feet high and I know for a fact that it is over 100 years old.  One of the favorite condiments of my mother’s generation was my grandmother’s pickled pears.  Nyel has made them from her recipe but I can’t say we are crazy about them, though pickled is one of the few ways those pears are edible.  They are still rock hard when they ripen and fall from the tree.  Even the birds shy away from them. One peck is usually all they try and I strongly suspect the result is a bent beak.

I usually don’t give that pear tree much thought.  I am grateful to it, to be sure, but mostly because it serves as a ‘trellis’ for the honeysuckle that will bloom in June and always fills our entire garden with the sweet smell of summer.  But, truth to tell, if I consider that old tree at all, it’s to marvel at its age and to wonder how many more years it will survive.

Fruit Trees at Left?  c. 1920

Fruit Trees at Left? c. 1920

This year, though, there is talk at our Community Historians class of a “Heritage Fruit Tree” project.  There are thoughts of locating some of the surviving fruit trees planted by Pacific County pioneers, taking scions from them, and grafting them to younger trees – or something like that.  I understand the concept but not how you do it.  Anyway… our pear tree has come into my focus a bit more fully in recent weeks.

Medora in the Garden c. 1913

Medora in the Garden c. 1913

I began to wonder if we have any early photographs of the tree that would help pinpoint its age.  I know that my grandmother had a camera as early as 1915. Medora, her oldest daughter (then sixteen) gave it to her for her 34th birthday on May 28th of that year.  Although the camera was an Ansco (we still have the manual) the family always referred to it as “the Kodak” and it was responsible for most of the early snapshots taken around our house.  I’m not sure how we came by any earlier views, though we have a few.

My mother remembered that there were “quite a many” fruit trees in the southeast part of the yard and said that the pear tree was the last of them.  The only photos I found of that area do, indeed, show trees but I am not knowledgeable enough to identify their age or type.  Maybe someone else will know.  Meanwhile… perhaps the Community Historian Heritage Fruit Tree will involve our pear tree.  My forebears would have enjoyed that – probably more than they enjoyed the pears!


  1. Suzanne

    I wonder why grafting is preferred as the method of propagation? Why not grow new trees from the seeds within the pears? Didn’t the early settlers grow fruit trees from seeds?

    • sydney

      I see that there are a number of sites online concerning heirloom fruit trees. It seems to be a hot topic right now. I’m sure you could locate answers to your questions there. Or, probably Kathleen Sayce would know.

  2. Caroline Miller

    Suzanne, I know you can use the seeds from apples. Maybe it’s the same for pears.

  3. Bruce Jones

    I read a book about Apple propagation in early America and don’t see why pears would be much different. Europeans grafted because they wanted to duplicate the exact characteristics of each type of Apple, but the voyage to America was too tough for little trees so they used seeds, which gave them much less control of propagated characteristics and much more diversity. They liked to plant Early Summer, Late Summer, and Fall ripening apples since they didn’t have refrigeration. Johnny Appleseed and others came up with a huge array of different kinds of apples with different characteristics. Unfortunately I don’t remember much else on the subject.

  4. Lee Ellis

    As Bruce says, cuttings taken from a plant and rooted in water or damp soil, or in the case of some woody plants, including some fruit trees, grafted (It’s easy, check the Internet) are exact genetic duplicates (clones) of the parent plant.

    A graft is made by taking a cutting (scion) from the desired dormant apple/pear, etc. and inserting it into a tiny cut in a branch of an established tree of the same speceis, but ot necessarily the same variety. I have a 5-in-one apple and a 3-in-one pear. If properly cared for (kept cool, dark, not allowed to dry), a scion might be able to survive a trip by ship across the Atlantic, but what assurance that a pear or apple might be growing in the New World?

    Fruits also reflect the genetics of the parent tree. So all fruit produced by the same tree will always be alike. However, the seeds contained in the fruit (ripened ovary) of the plant could have been fertilized by bees transmitting pollen from many different varieties of peach/apple. So, a variety of trees bearing fruits reflecting their maternal genetics as well as the contribution from the male parent brought by the bees

  5. Lee Ellis

    …continued (sorry, must have hit the wrong key somehow)….will result in a a diversity of fruits, as Bruce has noted.

    Some plants are self-pollinating, but in others, the boy parts (stamens) and girl parts (pistils – think “pistol-packin’ Mamas), mature at different times to avoid self-pollination and encourage out-breeding/diversity.

    Heirloom varieties of fruits or veggies, selected for taste over the years by consumers and handed down for generations, have been supplanted by often inferior tasting varieties that mature earlier, ship well, don’t spoil as quickly, etc. and so are preferred by producers.

    Note the role of bees here. At least 30% of the food we eat requires pollination by a source other than the wind. The majority of these pollinators are non-native honeybees, which are under attack by mites, fungus, pesticides, etc. Note that native bees (orchard bees, mason bees, etc.) do a far better job of pollination than honeybees – and don’t sting! Can’t remember the Washington State source – it’s 4am, but will send later.

    Also, pls, correct at least 2 errors in initial paragraphs: Not and species.


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