Pear Tree Classification


Juicy and sweet, pears are a late-summer treat for many gardeners. They have a long history in both Europe and Asia, with traces found in both Neolithic and Bronze Age sites. Cultivated pears are, like most fruits, hybrids of various wild species that have been selected for size and flavor. There are also pears grown only for their flowers, such as the Callery pear, Pyrus calleryana.


All pears are members of the genus Pyrus, closely related to apples, quinces, hawthorns and mountain ashes, all members of a division of the rose family. There are more than 30 species of pear native to areas from western Europe and northern Africa across the whole expanse of Asia.


Pears were likely domesticated at about the same time, 3,000 years ago, in both Europe and Asia. The fruit of many wild pears is quite edible and intentional planting of trees would have been a natural development from the gathering of wild fruit. European pears, Pyrus communis, seem to be a hybrid of two wild species, P. caucasia and P. nivalis. The Asian pear, sometimes called Japanese or Oriental pear, or Nashi (the Japanese word for pear), is a cultivated variety of Pyrus pyrifolia, probably hybridized with P. ussuriensis, both native to China.

European Pear Characteristics

The European pear has the classical pear shape, broad at the bottom and narrow at the top. The flesh, when ripe, is soft and melting. If allowed to ripen on the tree, the fruit is subject to breakdown of the core and is hard to pick without bruising. The pears are generally picked somewhat green and allowed to ripen off the tree.

European Pear Varieties

Bartlett is one of the best known varieties, though there are 20 to 25 varieties available. These include Bosc, Kieffer, Beurre d'Anjou, Red Bartlett and Summer Beauty. Each has fruit with slightly different characteristics and may have varying resistance to disease. Laxton's Superb, for instance, was popular in England but has been abandoned because of its susceptibility to fire blight.

Asian Pear Characteristics

Asian pears have fruit that is round, looking much like an apple. The texture is crisp and apple-like even when ripe. The fruit ripens well on the tree and is picked when mature.

Asian Pear Varieties

There are about 20 varieties of Asian pears, grown primarily in China and Japan though they are becoming more popular in the United States. There are three general types: those with round fruit and greenish yellow skin, those with round fruit and bronze-russet skin, and those that are pear-shaped green or bronze skin. Nijisseiki, with yellow-green skin, is one of the most popular varieties.

Keywords: pear tree taxonomy, pear classification, asian european pears

About this Author

Over the past 30 years, Mara Grey has sold plants in nurseries, designed gardens and volunteered as a Master Gardener. She is the author of "The Lazy Gardener" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Flower Gardening" and has a Bachelor of Science in botany.