Plant Introductions (1895-1927) N.E. Hansen, Horticulturist

   South Dakota State Bulletin 224.

Improvement of the Pear

From the 1919 list: The experiments in breeding pears immune or resistant to fire blight are described in Bulletin 159 of this Station. In the spring of 1915, scions of 39 varieties were distributed to 24 men in four different states. The later developments of this work are noted in the Minnesota Horticulturist for August, 1916, and in the 13th report of the S. D. State Horticultural Society. Since the publication of Bulletin 159, the tree called Pyrus sinensis or Pyrus Simonii has been separated from the other Chinese pears by Alfred Rehder into a new species and is now called Pyrus ovoidea. The seasons since 1914 have been marked by the most severe invasion of blight in the history of the Station. No attempt was made to cut out the affected pear, apple and crab apple trees so these resistant pear seedlings have had every opportunity to blight standing as they are in the same row with the blighted trees.

These new hybrid pears were sent out before fruiting. The fruit cannot be expected to be smaller than that of Pyrus ovoidea itself which, although only one and five-eighths inches in diameter, is sweet, juicy and of fair quality.

From the 1919 list: In the spring of 1921 I visited some of the best collections of cultivated pears in Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, to obtain pollen for use in originating hardy blight-proof pears of large size and good quality by mating the choicest pears of Europe, the largest pears in the world, with the small-fruited but hardy and blight-proof pears of Siberia. In the Fruit-breeding Greenhouses at South Dakota State College, much work of this kind has been done. Many hybrids have already been originated and at least three of these hybrids are of full commercial size and appear worthy of propagation. More are coming on.

The pedigrees of the 39 hybrid varieties distributed spring of 1895 as N. E. H. Nos. 1-38, inclusive, are as follows:

Female parent Birch-leaved pear. Pyrus betulafolia ["betulafolia" was consistently misspelled throughout this text as "betulifolia". Birch trees are of the genus Betula, not Betuli. Thus, I have corrected this error. -ASC]
Male parent, Cultivated pear, Pyrus communis.
1.  Pyrus betulafolia X German pear pollen (label lost).
2.  Pyrus betulafolia X German pear pollen.
3.  Pyrus betulafolia X German pear pollen.

Female parent, Cultivated pear, Pyrus communis;
Male parent, Birch-leaved pear, Pyrus betulafolia.
4.  Marie Louise X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
5.  Marie Louise X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
6.  Marie Louise X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
7.  Parrot X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
8.  Conference">Conference X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
9.  Parrot X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
10.  Parrot X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
11.  Marie Louise X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
12.  Marie Louise X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.
13.  Parrot X Pyrus betulafolia pollen.

Female parent, Chinese Sand Pear, Pyrus sinensis  ["Pyrus sinensis" was incorrect even by the standards of the time. Nowadays, it is called Pyrus pyrifolia, but I left the original here (except to remove the capitalization of the specific epithet), but linked to corrected information -ASC]; Male parent, Cultivated pear, Pyrus communis. 14.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 552 pollen.
15.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 553 pollen.
16.  Pyrus sinensis X Louise Bonne de Jersey pollen.
17.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 553 pollen.
18.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 552 pollen.
19.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 553 pollen.
20.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 555 pollen.
21.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 658 pollen.
22.  Pyrus sinensis X Marguerite Marillat pear pollen.
23.  Pyrus sinensis X Russian No. 553 pollen.
24.  Pyrus sinensis X Marguerite Marillat pollen.
25.  Pyrus sinensis X Louise Bonne de Jersey pollen.

Female parent, Cultivated pear, Pyrus communis ; Male parent, Chinese Sand Pear, Pyrus sinensis.
26.  Parrot X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
27.  Louise Bonne de Jersey X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
28.  Koenig Karl von Wurttemberg X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
29.  Diel (Diel’s Butterbirne) X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
30.  Russian No. 553 X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
31.  Fondante d’Automne X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
32.  Koenig Karl von Wurttemberg X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
33.  Koenig Karl von Wurttemberg X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
34.  Clapp Fayorite X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
35.  Koenig Karl von Wurttemberg X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
36.  Conference X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
37.  Conference X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
38.  Geheimrat Dr. Thiel [I can find little about this pear other than a mention that it resulted from 'Blumenbachs Butterbirne' X Beurre Diel. -ASC] X Pyrus sinensis pollen.
39.  Louise Bonne de Jersey X Pyrus sinensis pollen.

Of these seedlings three have been named: the Gogol, Pushkin and Tolstoy. The fruit of many of these has proven too small for market. The trees as a class are hardy. At least three of them are reported to bear fruit of commercial size. The experiments are not yet completed. Later, the original Pyrus betulafolia trees where killed by fire blight as they attained maturity. Meanwhile, the original trees of Pyrus ovoidea suffered from blight but made strong recovery. A study of the seedlings indicated that it would save fifty years or more time by going directly to the native home of Pyrus ussuriensis and secure seed from the northwestern limits of this species.

Rev. John B. Katzner of Collegeville, Minnesota, reports in the Northwest Farmstead, December 15, 1923, on Nos. 3, 10, 18, 24 and 38 as follows:
“These pear trees I have in bearing. While the pears of Nos. 3, 10, and 18 are not what they should be, Nos. 24 and 38 had some fine pears and I think No. 38, a medium to large pear, is a promising variety."

Gogol Pear.—From the 1919 list. N.E.H. 26. Pedigree: Parrot Pear x Pyrus ovoidea pear pollen, Two plants resulted from this combination. The Parrot pear was received from England: This one was selected and numbered N. E. H. 26. It has been free from blight, except one small twig blighted in 1918. It was injured by rabbits in the winter of 1916-1917. This seedling is named after Gogol, a Russian poet. The Gogol did not prove resistant to blight in inoculation experiments at Talent, Oregon, by F. C. Reimer. (Bul, 214, p. 96.)

Ming Pear.—Named in 1927. Flavor delicious, melting; really a first class dessert pear. Fruit pyriform, yellow, one and five-eighths x two inches in diameter; with minute russet dots. First distributed 1917 by scions as N. E. H. No. 25, The original tree has proven very resistant to fire blight, although many other pear trees adjacent to it died from fire blight. Have not tried artificial inoculation. The original tree bore freely the past season, 1926. Pedigree: Pyrus Simonii (now called Pyrus ovoidea) x Louise Bonne de Jersey pear pollen. The hardiness and blight-resistance are evidently from the Chinese pear, and the high flavor of the flesh from the French pear. Probably the fruit on budded trees will be somewhat larger.

Pushkin Pear. — From the 1919 list. Pedigree: Pyrus ovoidea x R&K 553 pear pollen. Seventy-one trees resulted from this cross. R&K 553 is a pear received under this number from Russia. Some of the seedlings have blighted, others not. One of, the best appears to be the one we numbered N. E. H. 18, and now named after Pushkin, a Russian author.

Tolstoy Pear. — From the 1919 list. Pedigree: Clapp's Favorite pear x Pyrus ovoidea pollen.: This is a seedling of Clapp's Favorite pear crossed with pollen of Pyrus ovoidea. The original tree is a beautiful tree of strong upright growth. It has shown no blight up to date, even after the severe blight invasion from 1914 to 1918, inclusive. The tree has proven hardy so far showing that it must be a true hybrid. The tree has not fruited but the size of the fruit will no doubt be intermediate between that of the two parents. Clapp's Favorite is one of the largest and best of American pears. This was the only tree resulting from this hybridization. Introduced spring 1917 as N. E. H. 84; see S. D. Bulletin 159.
F. C. Reimer, Superintendent of the Southern Oregon Experiment Station at Talent, Oregon, has been working with pear stocks for a long time. In the Monthly Bulletin of the State Commission of Horticulture, Sacramento, California, May, 1916, Professor Reimer reports that the Southern Oregon Experiment Station has perhaps the largest collection of species of Pyrus in the world. An extensive series of inoculations for pear blight is being carried on at Talent since pear blight is the limiting factor in pear culture at the present time and it is highly important to obtain blight-resistant stocks for the pear for Oregon and the whole Pacific Coast. In June, 1925, Professor Reimer reports:
“With us the Tolstoy is a vigorous upright grower, with desirable habit of growth, and it has shown a very high degree of resistance to Pear Blight. During our five years of inoculation work with it all of the inoculations on the trunk and most of those on the larger branches have failed. Only two small superficial cankers have developed on branches an inch or more in diameter and in these the disease made comparatively little headway, never reaching the sap-wood. In the young succulent branches the inoculations often failed. In some cases the shoots were killed back a distance of twelve to twenty-four inches, but the infection never extended into wood more than one-half inch in diameter. These trees have been very severely pruned, thoroughly cultivated, on rich soil and are growing among other trees seriously affected by the disease. The tree makes a slow growth in the nursery but becomes vigorous as it grows older in the orchard. No top-working has been done on this hybrid, but judging from its high resistance to blight and its clean, vigorous growth, resembling P. communis in some respects, it will probably become valuable as a stock for top-working. We shall thoroughly test it for this purpose in the near future. The fruit produced by this hybrid is very poor in quality.”

—Station Bulletin 214, pp. 95-6, June, 1925, Oregon Agricultural College “Blight Resistance in Pears and Characteristics of Pear Species and Stocks,” by F. C. Reimer, Corvallis, Oregon.

Pyrus ussuriensis. — From the 1917 list. A wild pear from the Pacific coast section of Siberia. This tree has proven perfectly hardy and very strongly resistant to blight. The stock offered is some secured from a 1908 tour to Russia. This will probably be the hardy, blight-proof stock of the future so an orchard should be established as quickly as possible for raising seed from which to raise seedlings.

In the 1921 spring list is noted the planting of 15 pounds of seed of Pyrus ussuriensis. This imported seed made a good germination and the seedlings a strong growth. Further investigations showed that the seed really came from Liaoyong, Manchuria. The blight resistance of this stock is the main claim for it.

The next year another lot of seed was secured from the same source. Both lots of seedlings winter-killed badly so this ended the experiments with pear seed from this source.

S. D. Usuri Pear. — From the 1919 list. This is Pyrus ussuriensis from an importation from Russia in the fall of 1907. The abbreviation S. D. for South Dakota has been attached so as to distinguish this importation from all others. They have proven practically immune to blight; of fine, vigorous upright habit, and very hardy, although standing in a crowded and unfavorable place.
Ussuriensis refers to the Usuri river in its native home on the Pacific coast section of eastern Siberia. Here this pear is native of vast forests of that region. Pyrus ussuriensis and its near relative Pyrus ovoidea, from north China, combine the necessary qualities of winter hardiness and blight resistance.
These trees should be carefully mulched over winter to prevent root-killing of the Japan pear seedling stocks upon which they are budded.

Saponsky Pear. — From the 1924 list. This is S. P. I. 20336 brought from Saponsky, Eastern Siberia, in 1906 by Frank Meyer as Agricultural Explorer for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The name Saponsky is given to indicate its origin, This form of Pyrus ussuriensis has proven very hardy, productive and free from blight. The rounded leaves are characteristic. The fruit is valuable only for the hardy seedlings to grow nursery stocks and for hybridizing.

Pyrus ovoidea Pear. — As described in Bulletin 159 of this Station, this is the new name of Pyrus Simonii, a Chinese wild pear, received from the Arnold Arboretum, Boston. Further investigations in the Arboretum has divided the species so that this tree is now called Pyrus ovoidea. The bright red of the leaves in autumn is attractive. The fruit is one and five-eighths inches in diameter, sweet, juicy and of fair quality. Spring 1922 list.

Russian Sand Pear. — From the spring 1922 list. In noting the behavior of the many pears imported from Northern Europe and Asia and other countries, special attention is attracted to Pyrus sinensis as received from Russia under the name of Pyrus sinensis R&K 453. These trees have proven hardy and have borne abundant fruit. Good seedlings were raised from them. The trees have been very resistant to fire blight. The fruit is small but good for cooking. These seedlings are worthy of planting for those who wish to breed hardy pears and the fruit is valuable for the seed from: which to raise hardy seedlings for budding or grafting.

Chang Pear. — Introduced 1926. This seedling was grown from fruit grown on trees of Pyrus Simonii, a Chinese wild pear received many years ago from the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, Massachusetts. The original tree bore fruit in 1923 and 1924. Fruit, clear yellow; oblong pyriform; flesh, white, firm, juicy. As described in South Dakota Bulletin 159, further investigations by Alfred Rehder at the Arnold Arboretum divide the species so that the tree is now called Pyrus ovoidea. The bright red leaves in autumn are attractive. The first fruits of this select seedling pear, Chang, are one and three-fourths x two and one- fourth inches in diameter and of fair quality. Chang is a Chinese name.

Harbin Pear. — Introduced 1926. Pyrus ussuriensis is the pear of northern Korea and Minchuria [sic] and also the Pacific Coast of Siberia, approximately from Vladivostock to the Amur River. It varies much from seed. In my 1924 tour to North China I gathered seed from many thousand pounds of the fresh fruit, gathered in the mountains of North China, in a region approximately fifty miles east of Harbin which is very near the western limit of this species. In this region the temperature ranges to about 47 degrees below zero F. The fruit of the largest pears is two and one-half inches in cross diameter and two inches in long diameter. The fruit varies in shape but is mostly rounded, tapering toward the stem. The foliage becomes ornamental in fall, owing to the bright red and yellow coloring. The term, Harbin Pear, is now given to this importation to distinguish it from importations of uncertain or more southern origin. This new material should be utilized in three ways:
     1. Seedlings should be planted out for fruiting to provide hardy blight-resistant nursery stocks for the new hybrids which are coming on.
     2. The fruit may be improved in size and quality by seedling selection through several plant generations.
     3. As rapidly as possible these pears should be hybridized with the large, fancy-flavored pears from west Europe.
There is much room for improvement in the flesh in flavor but it furnishes the best starting point that I know of for hardy pears strongly resistant to blight and hardy far north. As soon as possible we should combine the winter hardiness and blight resistance of this Siberian pear with the large size and fine quality pears of west Europe. This would make it possible for many northern states to grow pears where it is not possible at the present time. This pear is much used for food by the native Manchu Chinese. The flesh is white, juicy, with much grit. The fruit ripens late and keeps well, at any rate until late in the fall.

Search for Hardy Pear
The modern standard pear, Pyrus communis, is a native of temperate Europe and western Asia. In ancient Greece we find the first records of the pear as a cultivated plant. The main development of this species we owe to Belgium, in which country Van Mons stands out as the most prominent worker. Van Mons was born in 1765 and died in 1842. His theory was to grow as many seedlings as possible under cultivation and select the best as the parents for the next generation. He carried the pear through about five generations and at one time had 80,000 seedlings in his nursery. Van Mons distributed some 400 varieties, of which about 40 are still under cultivation.

However, this great work of Van Mons will not help us directly because the species is very susceptible to fire blight. Fire blight is a bacterial disease native of North America but not found in Europe or Asia. The work of Van Mons and other pear breeders can help us only through hybridization of their best pears with pears of other species resistant to blight which are found mainly in northeastern Asia, These choice west European pears suffer also from winter-killing here in the prairie Northwest. These are raised on a large commercial scale on the Pacific Coast, but the greatest danger always is fireblight, which sometimes wipes out whole orchards in a short time. Some of the Russian pears are hardy against winter killing but suffer from the blight.

On former five trips to Russia in 1894, 1897, 1908, 1908-09, and 1913, I looked into the pear question carefully. In parts of North China, especially Manchuria and North Korea, Siberia and East Siberia we find Pyrus ussuriensis which is very hardy against winter-killing and offers much strong resistance to pear blight. Farther south in China there are other species of pears which are resistant to pear blight but not against winter-killing. Specimen trees from these various trips and also some brought over by Frank N. Meyer, Agricultural Explorer for the U. S. Department of Agriculture, all gave promise, Professor F. C. Reimer of the Oregon Agricultural College made two tours to China to gather pear seed for the Pacific Coast. But the plan was to go much farther north and west of all these places to trace the northwest limit of the pear if possible. The element of winter hardiness is not so much of a factor on the Pacific Coast as it is here in the prairie Northwest. I thought I could save at least fifty years time by going where I could study these variations in pears. These pears of western Asia have been studied in the Arnold Arboretum of Boston, Massachusetts, by Alfred Rehder, including material brought over from Korea by Dr. E. H. Wilson, Assistant Director of the Arboretum. My 1924 tour is the first attempt to find the real northwestern limit of the pears, from the climatic s[t]andpoint. In 1921 at Brookings I spent $150 and $80 the next winter in importing Pyrus ussuriensis seed through commercial sources, This seed came from Lioayong, southern Manchuria, where the climate is much milder. It was thought this came from Korea, but really it was from southern Manchuria farther southwest toward Pekin, I have tested pear seedlings from France, Japan and other regions but none proved hardy.

I left Brookings July 26, 1924, on-my sixth tour to foreign lands in search of new seeds and plants, and returned October 17, 1924. The tour was from Seattle to Japan and through Japan to Korea, southern Manchuria via Mukden, and north to Harbin on the Siberian Railway where I made my headquarters, From Harbin I went east and west on the Chinese Eastern Railway which forms a part of the Siberian line for nearly a thousand miles. I found the western limit of the pear a few miles east of Harbin. I went from village to village in the mountains and got the Chinese to bring in the pears as they ripened. The main work was in the region about fifty miles-east of Harbin. The Chinese cut down other timber in the mountains but leave the pear trees as they furnish an annual supply of food. From many thousand pounds of pears I picked the best for special selection work. I hope to carry these pears through several generations, as was done at the time of Van Mons but utilizing the latest improvements both in theory and technique.

I went west to the Soviet boundary at the station Manchuli, also called Manchuria, This is where the Russian and Chinese custom houses are located on the boundary and is in a very sandy region. It is practically an arm of the Gobi Desert extending across the Siberian Railway. Here there are no pears, But a few miles farther east in the Great Khingan Mountains I made a rough mountain climbing tour and gathered some wild relatives of the peach and almond which I hope will be useful for experimental work.

The entire tour in the mountains along the Siberian Railway was in a region infested with Hung Huitsi, or Chinese bandits. The Chinese War broke out very soon after I arrived and many thousands of soldiers were sent farther south, toward Pekin. From Mukden to Pekin the railway was taken over so I could not return via Pekin. The only way was to go back the same way I came, through Korea and Japan.—N. E. Hansen (in Spring list, January 27, 1926).

Mugden Pear.—Introduced 1926. This name is given to seedlings of a small, early, yellow pear about one and one-half inches in diameter which I found on my 1924 trip shipped in large quantities from further south into Harbin, Manchuria. The trees, it was said, are very early in bearing. This will probably not be hardy far north but is more for the latitude of Nebraska and Iowa. It was impossible at the time to determine the exact origin of these pears. The fruit ripens much earlier than the local pears of the Harbin region. The fruit, while small, is juicy and of pleasant flavor, although as far as I know, none of these oriental pears have the high spice of the best pears of west Europe.

Simola Pear. — Introduced 1926. Fruit yellow, acute pyriform with a long stem; the first fruits are two inches by two and one-half inches in diameter. The original tree is of tall upright habit and fruited in 1923 and 1924. Pedigree: Pyrus Simonii x Marguerite Marillat pear pollen. The name Simola is made up of these two names. The original Pyrus Simonii trees were received from the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, Massachusetts, many years ago. The juicy, pleasant flavored fruit is somewhat larger than the typical Simoni.