|Fruit of Pyrus pyraster|
This wild pear and Pyrus caucasica (syn. P. communis subsp. caucasica) are thought to be the ancestors of the cultivated European pear (Pyrus communis subsp. communis). Both the wild pears are interfertile with domesticated pears.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish Pyrus pyraster from a common pear. Pyrus pyraster can reach an age of 100 to 150 years.
Pyrus pyraster is a deciduous plant reaching 3–4 metres (9.8–13 ft) in height as medium sized shrub and 15–20 metres (49–66 ft) as a tree. Unlike the cultivated form the branches have thorns. The leaves are ovate with serrated margins. The flowers have white petals. The stamens are equal to the length of styles. The flowering period extends from April through May. The fruits reach 1–4 centimetres (0.39–1.6 in) in diameter. and ripens in late Summer to early Autumn.They are quite hard and astringent, but they have a sweet taste and are edible when they are really ripe and fall from the tree. The seeds ripen in September.
It occurs in thickets and open woods with cool-temperate climates, in lowlands, hills and sometimes in the mountains, at 0–1,400 metres (0–4,600 ft) above sea level.
Wild Pears in Britain
The “Wild Pears” of England and Wales are actually thought to be Domesticated Pears that have escaped cultivation. They appear to be archaeophytes, with charcoal and carbonised pips having been found at several Neolithic sites and are occasionally mentioned in medieval documents. So it is likely that pears spread to Britain after their domestication with early farmers and subsequently escaped into the wild.
Its establishment in the British Isles is probably due to human migration, with the trees belonging to one of the Pyrus communis subspecies instead of the true Wild Pear species (Pyrus pyraster) which is native to much of continental Europe but absent from Britain.
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- Edward Milner – Trees of Britain and Ireland, page 113 - regarding Pears in Britain.