Pyrus calleryana

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Pyrus calleryana
Pyrus calleryana.JPG
Pyrus calleryana[1]
Clusters of white flowers
Callery pear blossoms
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Pyrus
Species: P. calleryana
Binomial name
Pyrus calleryana

Pyrus calleryana, the Callery pear, is a species of pear native to China and Vietnam,[2] in the family Rosaceae. It is a deciduous tree growing to 5 to 8 m (16 to 26 ft) tall,[3] often with a conical to rounded crown. The leaves are oval, 4 to 8 cm (1.6 to 3.1 in) long, glossy dark green above, on long pedicels that make them flash their slightly paler undersides in a breeze. The white, five-petaled flowers are about 2 to 2.5 cm (0.79 to 0.98 in) in diameter. They are produced abundantly in early spring, before the leaves expand fully.

The inedible fruits of the Callery pear are small (less than one cm in diameter), and hard, almost woody, until softened by frost, after which they are readily taken by birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings. In summer, the shining foliage is dark green and very smooth, and in autumn the leaves commonly turn brilliant colours, ranging from yellow and orange to more commonly red, pink, purple, and bronze. Sometimes, several of these autumn colours may be present on an individual leaf. However, since the colour often develops very late in autumn, the leaves may be killed by a hard frost before full colour can develop.

Callery pears are remarkably resistant to disease or fireblight though they are regularly disfigured or even killed by strong winds, ice storms, heavy snow, or limb loss due to their naturally excessive growth rates. Some cultivars, such as 'Bradford', are particularly susceptible to storm damage.

The species is named after the Italian-French sinologue Joseph-Marie Callery (1810–1862) who sent specimens of the tree to Europe from China.[4][5]


Cultivated Callery pears in flower
Autumn color of Callery pear

In much of North America, cultivars of P. calleryana are so widely planted as ornamental trees that they have become a nuisance. The trees are tolerant of a variety of soil types, drainage levels, and soil acidity. Their crown shape varies from ovate to elliptical, at least until loss of limbs due to excessive and unstable growth rates. The initial symmetry of several cultivars leads to their attempted use in settings such as industrial parks, streets, shopping centers, and office parks. Their dense clusters of white blossoms are conspicuous in early spring, though their smell is commonly found unpleasant by many people. At the latitude of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the trees often remain green until mid-November, and in warm autumns, the colours are often bright, although in a cold year they may get frozen off before coloring. In the South, Callery pears tend to be among the more reliable colouring trees.

Autumn leaves

Several cultivars of Callery pear are offered commercially, including 'Aristocrat', 'Autumn Blaze', 'Bradford' (the commonly planted '"Bradford pear"), 'Capital', 'Chanticleer' (also known as 'Cleveland Select'), 'New Bradford', 'Redspire', and 'Whitehouse'.

The initially neat, dense upward growth of 'Bradford'—which made it desirable in cramped urban spaces—also results in a multitude of narrow, weak forks, unless corrected by selective pruning at an early stage. These weak crotches make the tree very susceptible to storm damage. Because of this, and the resulting relatively short life span (typically less than 25 years), many groups have discouraged further planting of 'Bradford' and other similarly structurally deficient Callery pear cultivars (such other as 'Cleveland Select') in favour of increasing use of locally native ornamental tree species.[6]


Pear wood (of any species) is among the finest-textured of all fruitwoods. It is prized for making woodwind instruments, and pear veneer is used in fine furniture.[7] Pear wood also is one of the woods preferred for preparing woodcuts for printing, whether by the end-grained technique for small works, or side-grained for larger works.[8]

Callery pear has been used as rootstock for grafting such pear cultivars as Comice, Bosc, or Seckel, and especially for nashi pear. Pyrus calleryana was first introduced into the United States (in 1909 and 1916), largely influenced by the dedicated research of Frank N. Meyer, plant explorer for the US Department of Agriculture, commonly known for the discovery of the Meyer Lemon, for agricultural experimentation, pre-dating the recognition in the 1950s of the potential of the species as an ornamental plant.[2]


Callery pear fruit
Winter fruit of Callery pear

In its fertile natural forms Pyrus calleryana is an invasive species in many areas of eastern and mid-Western North America, outcompeting many native plants and trees.[2] In the northeastern United States, wild Callery pears sometimes form extensive, nearly pure stands in old fields, along roadsides, and in similar disturbed areas.

While various cultivars of the Callery pear are commonly planted for their ornamental value, their prolifically produced fruits are taken by birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings. The various cultivars are generally themselves self-incompatible, unable to produce fertile seeds when self-pollinated, or cross-pollinated with another tree of the same cultivar. However, if different cultivars of Callery pears are grown in proximity (within insect-pollination distance, about 300 ft or 100 m),[2] they often produce fertile seeds that can sprout and establish wherever they are dispersed. This technique was successfully used in the Dana Gould Gardens near Los Angeles.[9] The resulting wild individuals, of various genetic backgrounds, can in turn interbreed, producing more viable seed and furthering expansion and dispersal of the wild stand of the species. These plants often differ from the selected cultivars in their irregular crown shape and (sometimes) presence of thorns.

Callery pear is reported as established outside cultivation in 152 counties in 25 states in the United States.[10] While these wild plants are sometimes called "Bradford pear" (for the 'Bradford' cultivar), they are actually wild-growing descendants of multiple genotypes of Pyrus calleryana, and hence more correctly referred to by the common (or scientific) name of the species itself.[2]


The tree is known for its sickly sweet, often unpleasant smell during its flowering stage, which has been described as reminiscent of rotting fish, chlorine, or semen.[11][12]


  1. ^ Cirrus Digital Pyrus calleryana var. dimorphophylla
  2. ^ a b c d e Swearingen, J.; B. Slattery; K. Reshetiloff & S. Zwicker (2010). Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p. 168. 
  3. ^ Gu Cuizhi (Ku Tsue-chih); Stephen A. Spongberg (2003). "Pyrus calleryana Decaisne". Flora of China online. 9. 
  4. ^ Reimer, F.C., "A promising new pear stock," The Monthly Bulletin, California State Commission of Horticulture, 5:5 (May 1916), p. 167.
  5. ^ Bretschneider, Emil (1898), History of European botanical discoveries in China, 1, Sampson Low, p. 525 
  6. ^ Lawson, Nancy. "Plant This, Not That! Choose native plants to help put your garden to work for wildlife". The Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved 17 Jan 2016. 
  7. ^ Ohio State University Pyrus calleryana Archived 2012-02-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Escher, M.C. The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher. Pub: Oldbourne Book Co. London. 1961. page 9
  9. ^ Carolla, Adam. "ACS Podcast". Adam Carolla. ACS. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  10. ^ Vincent, M.A. (2005). "On the spread and current distribution of Pyrus calleryana in the United States". Castanea. 70: 20–31. doi:10.2179/0008-7475(2005)070[0020:OTSACD]2.0.CO;2. 
  11. ^ Spector, Dina (April 26, 2013) Why All Of New York City Smells Like Sex.
  12. ^ Deremo, Kalen. "Meet the tree that's making your neighborhood smell like Semenville, USA". Westword. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 

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