Article - European Pears

European Pears. Pyrus. Communis. By Peter Allen Monbulk Vic.

These usually have a buttery texture when ripe, they can be picked green and will ripen afterwards (off the tree) this is very handy for beating the birds to ripening fruit especially if fruit fly is an issue for your area. Pears are large trees to 15m tall if left unpruned; they handle pruning well and are well suited for using on an espalier. (See the picture I took of a 600 year old espalier in the Cotswold’s UK still bearing nice fruit).

The pear trees at “Petty’s Orchard” in suburban Victoria are 100 years old and will keep on producing for a long time yet, if looked after. So you can see it is worth thinking for a bit about placement as once planted they will probably out live us all.


CONDITIONS: Pears are the most forgiving of the fruit trees as they will handle heavy, poorly drained soils better than most of the fruit trees we wish to grow, but of course they will do best when grown on decent soils with a PH of 6.5-7.  

Pyrus calleryana D6 is a medium tree grown for it’s great autumn foliage (beware the thorns) but is also used as a rootstock in Australia for pears, it has a natural resistance to some pear diseases eg. black end and pear decline, it can be propagated from the seeds of the small pears it produces or from cuttings and reduces the size of the overall tree slightly.

To produce dwarf pear trees Quince ”A” rootstock is used but this will only work on a few pears varieties directly so they double graft each tree, first year with a quince compatible variety such as “WBC” and then next year with the intended variety to eat, this takes time and is not usually commercially viable on a large scale but at home is worth the effort if you want a small tree easily kept to 2 meters and even can be grown in a large barrel. 

Where apples might still do alright in dapple light, pears will appreciate the full sun. They do take a while to set fruit from planting (can be up to 7 years) this is why I suggest maybe adding a Nashi while you wait (they fruit in just 2 years).


VARIETIES: while the Southern Australian states with their cool climates are where most pears will do best meeting the chill requirements of 600-1200hrs below 7C, there are however some varieties that will do well in more northern climates with chill hours of only 160-260hrs, these varieties are Hood and Flordahome they are available by mail order from located in Kyogle NSW, both these varieties are early flowering with the Nashi’s- YaLi and TsuLi so they will all pollinate each other and will even be self fertile when about ten years old.


The standard in cooler areas is William Bon Cretien (WBC) also known as Bartlett, William’s or Duchess. This will pollinate with Burre Bosc, another commercially grown variety and is compatible with quince rootstock for grafting.  Another good pollinator is Packam’s Triumph, so with the 3 of these almost all the pears will be pollinated but why grow them to eat when they will all be ripe at the same time as the commercial crop that sells for as low as 89cents/ kg in the shops.

My suggestion is to grow others for the flavor and to spread the fresh crop available.

Try some of  these as individual trees or graft them onto your ones listed above keeping only 2 branches of the original variety for pollination.


Red varieties – Corella, Red D’anjou, Clapps Favorite, Butirra Rosata Morettini, Rogues Red and Mock Red Williams also known as Sensation, Red Sensation & Red Williams this one is probably also Quince compatible.

Cocktail pears – Faccia Rosa (Red Face) & San Giovanni (St John) is a yellow variety.

Others I like, Eldorado- a fine textured pear with elegant zig zag stem growth also quick to fruit from a graft.

Winter Nellis (Honey pear) roundish fruit bears very well late in the season and a good pollinator.

Lemon Bergamon (late), Abate Fetel ( Late), Precoce Di Fiorani (Early)

Pears for culinary uses- Beurre Bosc, Beure Superfin, Clapps Favorite, Uvedale St Germain, Dr Jules Guyot, Red Williams & Williams Bon Cretien.

Perry* varieties in Australia, Moorcroft, Gin, Green Horse & Yellow Huffcap all with high tannins.


As the pear curator for the Heritage Fruit Group I am interested in collecting and grafting all the pears still in Australia so far that about 110 varieties, I don’t have any of the Perry varieties yet so if you have them or any other old varieties smuggled in by your ancestors then I would love to here from you, please contact me via my website Our aim is to make these available via our grafting days so that we keep the material for future use in Australia, I also wish to document more useful info on these less known varieties as its very hard to find information with most books mainly being written on apples.


PESTS: While I don’t pretend to have a great knowledge of diseases and pests there are some remedies I do use that are not such a chore to do.

  1. The cherry and pear slug can grow to huge numbers in about 1 week if left alone and they will defoliate a tree if not dealt with, the simplest method I have found is to save the wood ash from the fire, I then sift it and keep it in a bucket in a dry place till needed. (this method is no problem on acid soils be careful if the PH is above 6.5)
  2. When the weather starts to get warmer I will keep a look out, watch the wet days followed by some sun in spring, this gives the right conditions for them to flourish.
  3. Take a handful of ash and stand downwind of the tree and throw the ash up through the canopy it will then settle on the leaves and desiccate the slugs, repeat till all are covered.
  4. If it rains and they are still present then do this again.

For apples (and some other fruits including pears) the Light Brown moth and the Codling moth can be a problem, the best home control is chooks free ranging beneath the trees or another old way was to wrap cardboard strips round the trunk and each month as they come down to pupate in the corrugations you remove and destroy the material and replace it (there can be 6-7 generations in a good season if not controlled)


*PERRY: this is an alcoholic beverage made from pears (Pryus nivalis, “the snow pear”) the same way apple cider is made in the UK there are over 100 suitable varieties but in Australia we only have 4 of them here Moorpark,   here they are used to supply tannins in the apples cider making.

Perry pears contain varying amounts of a natural sweetener called Sorbitol which does not ferment to alcohol. Perry often has a touch of sweetness as a result. However, there is a side-effect. Sorbitol can have a laxative action. Some people are more susceptible than others. It is this property, that at its extreme, which has probably given rise to the saying “Perry goes down like velvet, round like thunder and out like lightning.” You have been warned. Source “the web” 2007.


Next time we will look at the English and French apple varieties that are used to make cider.

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