Kiefer Pears Question

clarkinks(5b)January 29, 2014

I have two kiefer pears and tasted two or three more has anyone else ever noticed there is a lot of variation? When I was a boy we harvested some down the road that were big and delicious. One I have now is huge and the other is very small. My question for all of you are what are your kiefer pears like and is there an old fashioned / improved varities? Do you have a particularly good kiefer pear?

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My small kiefer seems more resistant to disease than other pears I have seen. I'd like to get to the bottom of it because I wonder if everything we buy as a certain fruit type really is what it's supposed to be.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 6:53PM
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backyardgardener26(7 VA)

There are many factors involved in fruit size and quality that could explain what is going on with your Kieffer pears. I don’t know how different your pears taste or look, but if they don’t resemble each other at all it could be you purchased mislabeled trees. Do you know what rootstock they are on or if they are on different rootstock? Certain rootstocks are better for some pears then others and it might be one is on a less suited rootstock. Environment also plays a roll, even on your own property there can be enough difference to effect fruit. Mutation is a possibility also but I would think it is less likely to be your problem.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 8:52PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I have two different neighbors with Kieffer pear trees. One of the trees is old and the other not bearing yet. The old one produces fairly uniform fruit with lots of grit cells and not very sweet.

If you tasted a delicious pear as a youth, it probably wasn't Kieffer. Mislabeling happens. Some nurseries are worse than others.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:43PM
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Great questions! I bought one tree from the arbor society (small) and one from burgess (very large). Neither one tastes anything like what the ones tasted like that were called kiefer pears when I was a boy. I have grafted them onto other rootstocks since kiefer is not patented and they are exactly the same tree regardless where I grow them on the property. There is a clapps favorite pear which I have (amazing pear) and a red clapps favorite (I don't have) A Bartlett I have (which is red) and a yellow colored Bartlett. So it seems like there are many mutations and so perhaps a traditional and improved kiefer is possible. I love them both I was just curious if others have experienced variations in their kiefer pears. I bought the second one just because I needed a tough tree for a tough spot and did not have anymore rootstocks that year to plant and graft later. You can imagine my surprise!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:53PM
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These contain a small amount of grit cells but not in an unpleasant way like some I have tasted. These taste like an old traditional cooking pear. You leave them on the table for a month and they are sweet as honey and turn from green to yellow when ripe. Both are very different sized and slightly different flavor. I have never heard of anything besides a kiefer being rock hard like that with grit cells and turning yellow like that. They both do it

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:00PM
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The pears in the pictures at these links look exactly like what I bought

The trees and fruit look nothing alike but are as advertised and both wonderful trees.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:07PM
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If the pears in the pictures look like what you have seen then I will be satisfied they are just variations of kiefer pears.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:12PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


The picture in Burgess is not Kieffer. Kieffer doesn't have much of a neck. I wouldn't trust Burgess much on getting their pictures right. Less they sent you the correct cultivar.

It's possible you are dealing with sports, but more probable mislableing. Sports generally don't change that much, unless it's a sport of a sport of a sport, although there are exceptions.

Lots of other pears can be picked rock hard green and turn yellow, even Bartletts.

Re Burgess:

Burgess has a horrid reputation that I think is well deserved. I personally know one person who ordered 6 fruit trees and a few blackberry bushes. Three of the trees and all the blackberries were DOA. After most of the plants/trees didn't leaf out, the guy called Burgess to get his money back (Supposedly they guarantee their stock to leaf out).

Burgess denied his refund because he couldn't produce his packing slip (come on, it's not like they don't have a computerized record of purchases).

In the last year Watchdog has 30 negative reviews on Burgess and only 6 positives.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 11:25PM
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Thanks Olpea that clears up the mystery then. I personally have seen several trees or seeds mislabeled from other companies as well. Typically I like to grow my own and graft my own just for that reason. I got most of my scions from Bob Purvis this year to ensure I am getting good ones from a reputable source. I love trading stuff with peopleto ofcourse. Once in awhile some company like Gurneys or Henryfields comes up with something I can't live without like the flat wonderful peach, yum yum nectarine, or carmine jewel cherry and I order it. I don't regret my orders but things like these make me cautious. Thanks for the insight.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 7:36AM
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I was going with your idea of mislabeling but after a little searching that does not seem to be the case. It is more likely your idea of it being a sport or variation due to a kiefer being a hybrid of bartlett and a sand pear. I grow so many other pears it's more like a kiefer than any other. Here are a few other posts that imply it is indeed a kiefer because it looks like them

What interesting is according to this article below it is in fact a hybrid of a Bartlett which makes a lot of since it resembles one in the neck area as you mentioned

It seems to me there is a wide variation of Kiefer pears and this explains why one person raves about them and the other person can't stand them. We always thought it odd when people mentioned they didn't like them until I tasted what they called a kiefer pear and it was nothing close to what I was eating. Perhaps the more Bartlett the pear is the better the flavor and the more sand pear the variety is the worse the flavor.

This post was edited by ClarkinKS on Thu, Jan 30, 14 at 8:08

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 7:58AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I still think it's unlikely these are sports. Nurseries are notorious for posting wrong photos.

There is a regular contributor here named Konrad. He is also a very talented photographer. Quite a few years ago he took a very photogenic picture of one of his plum trees and posted it on this forum. At the time he thought the plum was Superior, but later realized it was Supreme and eventually corrected the mistake in the thread.

However, before he was able to make the correction, nurseries started picking up his photo and attaching it to Superior plum (in effect coping his mistake). Some nurseries were even saying the picture was subject to copyright!

Quite humorous really, if it didn't mislead so many people. If you search you can still find Konrad's original picture attached to Superior. (Below is the thread)

For sure sports occur, but generally they are recognized, especially if there is a significant difference between the sport and the original (like Lady Nancy peach). Many times the sport is even patented.

For example, there are about 4 different red sports of Bartlett (there may be more, but I know of four) and all of them have different names, despite the fact that the only difference between them is the degree of red and perhaps slightly different ripening times. As far as I know, they all taste like Bartletts. I have the Maxx Red Bartlett and a regular yellow Bartlett. They taste identical to me.

Regarding mislabeling, not only is accidental common, but I think sometimes it's done purposely. There are too many mislabeled trees from big box stores to be unintentional.

I think nurseries need to unload their undersold varieties and use the big box stores as their outlet. There is an old saying in the nursery business at the end of the season, "either a fire sale or a bonfire." I think nurseries labeled their undersold trees the most popular varieties and ship them off to big box stores at dirt cheap prices.

There is little consequence. Most homeowner's kill fruit trees anyway. Even if the trees do live to fruit, typical homeowners don't know the difference between one red apple and another, much less one yellow pear and another. Even if they do recognize the tree was mislabeled, how many will take it back to the store for a claim? Nearly zero of course.

As with Konrad's photo, germplasm can get mislabled and the mistake can be perpetuated by multiple nurseries. How many nurseries actually get their original scion wood from GRIN (one of the USDA repositories). Much easier to simply buy a starter tree from another nursery.

Even the reputable Adams County Nursery sold a non-Green Gage plum as Green Gage (along with other nurseries) for a while.

Several years ago nurseries were perpetuating a mistake by selling apples on a certain patented rootstock (I forget which one) which wasn't really that rootstock. Everyone thought it was. A very sharp commercial apple grower eventually recognized the mistake. My point is if it can happened with patented material (where there is lots of money involved) it can certainly happen (and does) with old unpatented varieties which aren't policed at all.

In your example, I suppose we will never know for sure unless someone performed DNA testing, but I think what's probably happened is someone sold one of the hundreds of yellow pear varieties as a Kieffer. It tastes good so nurseries happily and blindly continue to sell it as a Kieffer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Konrad's photo

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I expect the issue with Keiffer is the pear was so common at one point that the name became almost generic with backyard pear. A similar thing happened to Brown Turkey for figs -- there are many different fig varieties sold under that name today.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 11:49AM
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Olpea as always thanks for the insight I even referenced older books to try and find the answer to no avail. I would be interested to know how many of us are growing things other than kiefers. I feel confident that at least the arbor society pear is a kiefer. . Scott I know what you mean I have heard of variations among that variety of fig as some argue over hardiness and flavor. I certainly wish Peter Kieffer was around to ask him exactly which one was his pear. I enjoyed this article about him

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 8:46PM
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Clark, you haven't seen the movie Second Hand Lions, have you? It's an exaggerated, unrealistic comedy. There's a scene where a traveling seed salesman visits the two main characters and talks them into planting a garden. The main characters take the labels from the seed salesman and carefully label each row as tomatoes, carrots, beans, etc., but when the plants come up it's all corn. The one character has too much hope and faith to believe it, but the other one figures they've been duped. Anyways, I visited some nearby neighbors a couple years ago that had purchased a dozen trees from the Arbor Day Foundation two or three years prior. They were showing me around their yard saying, "Here's my Bing cherry," and "Here's my Red Delicious apple," and "Here's my Methley plum," etc. Every tree they showed me was clearly a callery (Bradford-type) pear, just like in the movie.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 7:57AM
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As far as I know there are no Kieffer cultivars/sports that I am aware of...not that there aren't some variations including environmental conditions, rootstock and pruning habits.

Two things: Kieffer's are naturally gritty. People leave them on trees too long and the grittiness increases. Second, European pears do not ripen on trees, they rot on trees. You pick them 1-2 weeks early and let them ripen inside. Otherwise they rot from the interior out which is why people understandably do not like pears (fresh from the tree). By the time they are ripe on the tree the insides have rotted.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 1:45PM
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lol Second hand lions sounds hilarious. Wait until the neighbors get pears and not cherry, apple, and plum.... I sure am glad I'm not going to be taking that phone call! I would rather be standing below a hornets nest on a windy day than explain why those trees are not what they said they were. These pears have some grit but not excessive and we pick them a little early like we do most of our pears or the raccoons steal them. The raccoons actually broke off another pear tree once because it was so loaded with fruit and raccoons it could not hold up the weight. Links were interesting thanks!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 7:48PM
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The original Kieffer come to find out is very different from the "Improved Kieffer Pear Tree" .

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 6:03AM
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