Can my pear tree be saved?

GardeningJill2010February 16, 2014

Hello, I have lived in my home in zone 6 for over 20 years and have just started enjoying the pear tree in the back yard. I don't know exactly what type of pear tree it is, but the pears are green speckled, crisp, firm and mostly sweet. Lately the blossom end of the pears have been brownish.
Over the past 3-4 years or so the tree started to split. I am not sure what caused the splitting to begin in the first place. Two years ago it's produce was prolific. Last year it might have given us 5 pears...

I have been meaning to do something about it, however, time got away from me.

I was wondering if I can cut off one side of the split and leave the more upright side to see if it will continue to produce. Please give me your feedback.

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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

My first instinct is to say to tie the two parts together to prevent further splitting. Removing one side will not prevent the other side from falling over. That said, I don't know what material would be strong enough to use.

Pear trees usually need a pollinator so it may be that it's pollinator was removed, or it may be that a late frost killed all the blossoms. Also, from what I have read, pear blossoms are not that attractive to bees. And of course if there has been bee die-off that might affect production too.

Don't give up on it; pear trees take a long time to come into bearing and you have got yourself a prize there. You may consider, at some time, to graft onto it. If you grafted different cultivars then you would have more of a guarantee of yearly production.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 11:38AM
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Gardening Jill. At first I was going to tell you that you might as well get rid of the tree all together. Then I googled pear tree age and found an article on a pear tree planted in 1630 at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Don't give up on the tree!

I would however do as you suggested and remove the leaning portion on the left side of the tree. It appears as if there's some rot or hollowing going on at the base. Are the two trunks on the right connected? If they are you probably have an entry point for decay there as well.

Unless you have a lot of experience with tree work you may want to hire an arborist to do the work for you. I was a landscape contractor and did a lot of work on trees and I would hire that job to an arborist.

Good Luck on saving that great looking old tree.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 12:02PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

This thread might be of interest to you also.

Here is a link that might be useful: Can my pear tree be saved?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 2:24AM
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Thanks for he information so far. To answer the question from jBraun, yes the two right trunks are connected. There is some rotting at a hole where a branch was cut from years ago. Birds build their nests there; however, I still
see new growth from those rotting spots during its season. I think that about covers it. I don't know much about maintaining trees and am leaning towards calling someone in to take care of it as you suggested.

Thanks for the advice and the link also milehigirl. I reviewed some of the posts so I will review the rest. That tree looks more solid than mine.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 5:16AM
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If you care about it, hire a professional arborist with experience in old fruit trees to save. Otherwise, plant a new one and wait 5 years for fruit.

Also, be aware, European pears are not eaten fresh off the tree. They are picked just before ripe and allowed to ripen for 1-2 weeks in the home before consuming for peak ripeness. Otherwise they tend to rot form the inside out.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 3:30PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Depending on rootstock a pear can take up to 10 years, and even then you will start out with just a few pears.

In looking at the tree it seems that the original tree may have died and the rootstock put out side shoots. This is not a problem at all if you like the pears. Your tree is capable of being grafted to and then would give you a variety. Pears are the easiest tree to graft.

If you were to keep one I believe the one closer to the house would be the best as it seems to be more erect.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 8:11PM
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Gardening Jill, It's good to see some other ideas on later posts. After reading a lot of posts on Milehighgirl's link it gave me a few ideas as to what caused your tree to take the multi trunk form it now has. Someone suggested that the original graft failed and the rootstock sent up multiple sprouts. That being said you have great rootstock to graft new varieties onto. I would still remove the portion to the left entirely. It looks very weak and will probably remove itself soon anyway.

I would keep the two trunks on the right. Is that where the splitting is that you are first talked about? If it is here's how I thought about taking care of that problem. The front trunk with the hole that the birds nest in I would cut down to 6' high cut at a sloping 45% so the water drains away from the two splits.There's no way that the tree can collar all of that wood. So just paint it with an outdoor paint. Just like any wood you would need to do that on a regular basis to keep rot out. In the meantime you have a great root stock to work from. You have removed the weight from the trunk that's causing the split. Next year you could also remove the other side if you want to lower it as well. It's a multi year project.

In bonsai culture they use thread grafting to insert branches any where on the trunk that they need them. This is done by drilling a hole through the trunk and threading a branch through the hole. If you use this principle you can get new scions to grow on the now lower trunk. You wouldn't have to drill all the way through to graft your new type of pear. I've not done any grafting myself so others could help you with that process.

Milehighgirl, Please post recent pictures of your pear project tree.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:22AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I did try the Plugger grafting tool to try to graft to the main trunk but I was unsuccessful. I hesitated to just chop off the top of the tree at an angle because I did not want it to rot. Pear trees are very long-lived; some over 200 years. We did bring the tree down 10 feet or more and that encouraged the tree to put out branches lower that I was able to graft to. Unfortunately I had to sell the house as we did not have the funds to fix it and we had six sons in college.

Here is a picture of the graft I used the Plugger with. The graft did not take but the tree did put out a new branch which I was going to graft to.

Here is a picture of a graft I did succeed with that I put on one of the lower branches the tree put out due to it's drastic pruning.

In order to harvest the fruit more easily the tree should be brought down. It is hard to know the best way to do it and everyone has a different answer. Just deciding to take care of the tree is a good first step. My grandfather's pear tree was neglected for 30 years when the property was made into a rental.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scion take or new branch?

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:54PM
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Milehighgirl and jBraun, I appreciate the time and consideration that you have invested. All of your suggestions sound great and at the same time intimidating. I am intrigued though by the idea of grafting another type of pear to my tree and by the fact that pear trees can last as long as what you've mentioned. I will do some research. I think I will first ensure that this tree is healthy.

You've given me hope.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 7:48AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

I reworked an old deer pear for my neighbor and had about 8 scions to work. I cut the big tree's branches at 1 ' long and cleft grafted the cuts, secured with a heavy duty staple gun. I also cut the bark down below, peeled the bark back, and slid a trimmed scion in there and stapled the sucker onto the trunk, followed with finish nails. I dressed it with toilet wax. I have bartlett, sheldon, harrow delight and orcas on it now as many of the grafts took. Later on in the year I pruned out the sprouts that had grown and in the winter pruned back the surrounding trees to let in more light. We decided to pune back the last year's growth in the spring to allow for a better union as the branches grow again. I hope that was the right thing to do.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 5:02PM
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emorems0(PA - 6a)

Two summers ago I had a huge oak tree crash down right on top of our best pear tree... split it right in half, I was sure it was a gonner. Last summer, it produced a really nice crop of pears. I didn't do anything to it, in fact, it took the landlord at least 3-4 months before he even cut the oak tree up and got it off of the pear tree. It looks like your tree is much bigger than mine though, if it falls on its own, it could cause some property damage (that would be my concern).

Wish I had taken a picture of how sad it looked after the oak tree was removed... this one was taken right after the tree fell. You can see a bit of the oak tree in the very bottom of the photo... it was a LOOONG split (probably 3 feet), but the tree survived and fruited well the next year without any help from me.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 2:35PM
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We had a pear tree split down the middle when we lived in central Wisconsin. We just cut off the downed side and left the side that was still upright. It did fine and was still producing good crops when we moved away from there. Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 4:34PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I would cut all limbs down to about 6 foot,'ll get new growth further down, graft over some which doesn't produce good fruits down the road, then you might want to cut the heavy trunks further down near the branch you have chosen.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 1:37AM
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alan haigh

I've dealt with many such trees over the years as that is a significant part of my business. It always amuses me when someone advises someone to cut down a tree because it might fall down on its own. At least if you do the cutting you are in control..

If the leaning part of the tree is still sending out new growth and hasn't lost vigor as a result of the split you can probably extend its use by cabling it- something a commercial arborist can do if you are not the google for information and do-it-yourself type with a lot of tools. A single cable shouldn't cost too much (under $200).

Old trees often lose major scaffolds and continue on for more than a century, and pears are the oldest living of conventional fruit species, so you needn't hesitate to remove the splitting scaffold either.

Whatever you do about the split, it is time you learned something about pruning so you can efficiently mange it for actual heavy cropping. I recommend you acquire a copy of Hall-Beyer's "Ecological Fruit Production in the North" and follow the approach well explained and photographed there of renovating old apple trees. Same methods should work for the pear.

Even if you have an arborist do the work, get the book so you can explain what you want the arborist to do. Most of them know little to nothing about renovating fruit trees.

Once the tree has been directed to a more manageable and productive shape you can learn how to do a simple splice graft and turn your tree into a multi-pear factory and harvest fruit from Aug. into Oct. of various varieties.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:06AM
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