There are over 800 species of pear trees, and many of them are quite similar. All pear trees have medium sized, oval-shaped green leaves that turn colors and drop in the fall. All pear trees have white blooms in clusters of five. Some are ornamental, while others do produce edible pears. Identifying a particular variety of pear tree comes down to thinking about where you live and carefully examining the fruit of the tree.
Consider where you live. If you live in an urban area and your pear tree is located along a street, there is a good chance you have a Bradford pear tree. Bradford pears are very popular in urban areas for their tolerance of pollution. The tree could also be a Chanticleer pear, which in recent years have begun to replace Bradford pears.
Smell your tree when it blooms. Some ornamental pear trees have a rotten smell to their beautiful flowers. If the flowers smell "fishy," you can narrow your pear tree down to one of several ornamental pears.
Look at the size and shape of your tree. Callery pear trees can grow up to 40 feet tall, but other pear trees usually mature at around 20 feet tall. Common pear trees have branches that are more spread out than that of the Bradford or Chanticleer pear, which tend to grow in a narrower, oval shape.
Examine the fruit. Ornamental pear trees, such as the Bradford, produce fruit that is small (about a half-inch in diameter), dark and hard. Birds love them, but they are not the type of "pear" that a person would want to eat. Each variety of fruiting pear trees produces a distinctive type of pear. The Bartlett pear, for example, is large, soft and bright yellow when ripe. The sugar pear is smaller, with thick red or green skin. Examining the pear is the best way to determine what type of pear tree it is. For photos of many different types of pears, visit the link in the Resource section.
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