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Pyrus (Sturtevant, 1919)

Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Pyrus (Sturtevant, 1919)

Pyrus angustifolia Ait.


North America. This species differs little from the P. coronaria of which it may be a variety. Its range is not well known but it occurs in Virginia, Kansas and the western states. It is good for preserves and sauces.

Pyrus arbutifolia Linn. f.


Northeast America. Josselyn mentions its fruit as "of a delicate, aromatic taste but somewhat stiptick." The fruit is well known for its puckery quality, but occasionally a variety is found which is rather pleasant tasting and is eaten by children.

Pyrus aria Ehrh.


Europe and northern Asia. The berries of this species occur in the debris of the lake settlements of Switzerland. Johnson says the fruit is edible when mellowed by frost and that, fermented and distilled, it yields a good spirit. Dried and formed into a bread, it has been eaten in France and Sweden in time of scarcity. In India, the fruit is eaten when half rotten.

Pyrus aucuparia Ehrh.


Europe and northern Asia. This species is a native of Europe but is cultivated for ornament in America and, in France, is grafted on the service tree to increase the size of the berries. The round fruit is small, scarlet, very juicy, sour and bitter but, when made into a jam, is called palatable. In Wales and the Scottish Highlands, in Livonia, Sweden and Kamchatka, the berries are eaten when ripe as a fruit, and a liquor is produced from the femented berries. In various parts of the north of Europe, in times of scarcity, the dried fruit is ground into a meal and is used as a bread-food.

Pyrus baccata Linn.


Himalayan region and northern Asia. This species is cultivated in our gardens for ornament and is highly esteemed for preserving. The fruit, in India, says Brandis, is small and sour but palatable, with a true apple flavor. It is much prized by the Hill People.

Pyrus betulaefolia Bunge.


China. The flowers, leaves and fruit are edible. It was noted in China in the fourteenth century.

Pyrus communis Linn.


Europe, northern Asia and the Himalayan region. The pear is a native of Europe and the Caucasian countries. It has been in cultivation from time immemorial. The fruit tree figured in one of the tombs at Gurna seems to belong here, and Heer states that a small-fruited kind appears in the debris of the earliest lake villages of Switzerland. Unger states that pears were raised in the gardens of the Phoenicians, and Thasos was celebrated in ancient times on account of the excellence of its pears. The primitive festival of the Ballachrades of the Argives with the wild pear (achras) had reference to this first article of food of their forefathers. The Jews were acquainted with greatly improved varieties, but the Romans first occupied themselves more closely with its cultivation and produced numerous sorts. Theophrastus knew 3 kinds of pears; Cato, 6; Pliny, 41; and Palladius, 56. Targioni-Tozzetti says that in Tuscany, under the Medici, in a manuscript list of the fruits served at the table of the Grand Duke Cosmo III, is an enumeration of 209 different varieties, and another manuscript of that time raises the number to 232. In Britain, in 1640, 64 kinds were cultivated, and in 1842 more than 700 sorts had been proved in the Horticultural Society's gardens to be distinct. In 1866, Field gives a catalog of 850 varieties, of which 683 are of European origin. The American Pomological Society's Catalog of 1879, names 115 distinct kinds which are considered desirable for culture. The pear is now found in Europe, Circassia, central Asia, the north of China and Japan, as well as in America but is not grown in southern India, nor in Norway. Pear seeds were mentioned in the Memorandum of March 16, 1629, to be sent to the Massachusetts Company; in or about 1640, a tree was imported by Governor Prince and planted at Eastman, Massachusetts, and one about the same time was planted at Yarmouth, Massachusetts. The Stuyvesant pear tree was planted in New Amsterdam in 1647 and is said to have been imported from Holland. In 1648, it is said in A Perfect Description of Virginia that "Mr. Richard Kinsman hath had for this three or four years forty or fifty Butts of Perry made out of his orchard, pure and good." On the banks of the Detroit River pears were planted as early as 1705 by the French settlers.

Pyrus coronaria Linn.


Eastern North America. This is, perhaps, the apple seen by Verazzano in 1524 on the New England coast. The fruit is about an inch in diameter, very acid and uneatable; it is, however, used for preserves and for making cider.

Pyrus cydonia Linn.


Mediterranean and Caucasus regions. The quince was held in high repute by the ancients and was dedicated to the Goddess of Love. Theophrastus speaks of a kind of quince as struthion and Dioscorides speaks of the tree as kudonea. Athenaeus says Corinth furnished the Athenians with quinces as delicious to the taste as they were beautiful to the eye. The quince was brought to Italy from Kydron, a city of Crete, according to Pliny. Columella knew it in his time, for he says "quinces not only yield pleasure but health." In 812, Charlemagne enjoined its cultivation in France. In England, it was known to Chaucer in the latter part of the fourteenth century, for he speaks of it under the name of coine. In 1446, baked quinces were served at a banquet in England. Quinces reached America in colonial times, for quince kernels were in the Memorandum of March 16, 1629, of seeds to be sent the Massachusetts Company. They are mentioned in Virginia in 1648 and again by Shrigley in 1669. In 1720, they are mentioned as growing abundantly. At Santa Cruz, Bartlett writes: "There are two varieties of the quince here, one hard and tart like our own, the other sweet and eatable in its raw state, yet preserving the rich flavor of the former. The Mexicans gathered and ate them like apples but I found them too hard for my digestive organs." In Chile, says Molina, the quinces are of large size, though, like those of Europe, they have an acid and astringent taste but, if suffered to attain perfect maturity, they are very sweet and good.

Pyrus germanica Hook. f.


Eastern Europe and the Orient. The medlar, although distributed throughout almost the whole of Europe, is not indigenous but is a native of northern Persia. It was brough, to Greece at an early period, and Theophrastus was acquainted with three varieties. At the time of Cato, it was unknown in Italy and was first brought there from Macedonia after the Macedonian war. The fact that the Romans found the medlar in Gaul proves only that it came there earlier in the way of trade. Three varieties are considered worthy of cultivation in England. The skin of the fruit is brown and the flesh firm and austere, not at all fit to eat when first gathered and requiring to be kept until it begins to decay, but, when it becomes completely disorganized and its green color has entirely gone, the pulp, in its incipient state of decay has, to many tastes, an agreeable acidity. There is a seedless variety which keeps longer than the other kinds.

Pyrus glabra Boiss.

Southern Persia. This species furnishes a fruit which is eaten. In Luristan it bears a substance which, according to Haussknecht, is collected by the inhabitants and is extremely like oak manna.

Pyrus intermedia Ehrh.

Europe. The fruit is red and eatable.

Pyrus japonica Thunb.


The Japanese quince is said to have been first introduced into Europe in 1815. The fruit of the variety, says Downing, is dark green, very hard and has a peculiar and not unpleasant smell. In the Michigan Pomological Society's Report, the fruit is said to be sometimes used in jellies. E. Y. Teas, a correspondent of Case's Botanical Index, says he has seen specimens two by three inches in diameter, with a fine fleshy texture, abounding in a rich, aromatic juice, as tart as and very much like a lemon, readily producing a jelly of the finest quality and most delightful flavor. When baked or stewed, the fruit becomes very fine.

Pyrus lanata D. Don.

Himalayan region. The fruit is edible.

Pyrus malus Linn.


Forests of temperate Europe and Asia. The apple has been cultivated from remote time. Carbonized apples have been found in the ancient lake habitations of Switzerland, at Wangen, at Robenhausen and at Concise, but these are small and resemble those which still grow wild in the Swiss forests. Apples were raised in the gardens of the Phoenicians. They are noticed by Sappho, Theocritus and Tibullus. Theophrastus knew 2 kinds of apples; Cato, 7; Pliny, 36; Palladius, 37. Varro, in the first century B. C., reports that, when he led his army through Transalpine Gaul as far as the Rhine, he passed through a country that had not the apple. According to Targioni-Tozzetti, in a manuscript list of the fruits served up in the course of the year 1670 at the table of the Grand Duke Cosmo III, of Tuscany, 56 sorts are described, 52 of which are figured by Costello. In England, 1640, Parkinson enumerates 59 sorts. In 1669, Worlidge gives a list of 92, chiefly cider apples. In 1697, Meager gives a list of 83 as cultivated in the London nurseries of his day. Yet Hartlibb, 1651, mentions 200 and was of opinion that 500 varieties existed.

In 1524, Verazzano, on the coast of what is supposed to be the present Massachusetts, mentions apples but we know not to what fruit he could have referred. Apple seeds were in the Memorandum of 1629 of seeds to be sent the Massachusetts Company. In 1648, Peregrin White, the first European born in New England, planted apples at Marshfield. In 1639, Josselyn was treated with "half a score very fair pippins" from Governor's Island in Boston Harbor, though there was then "not one apple tree nor pear planted yet in no part of the country but upon that island." In 1635, at Cumberland, Rhode Island, a kind called Yellow Sweeting was originated. In 1635, as Josselyn states, Mr. Wolcott, a distinguished Connecticut magistrate, wrote that he had made "five hundred hogsheads of cider "out of his own orchard in one year and yet this was not more than five years after his colony was planted. In 1648, "Mr. Richard Bennett (of Virginia) had this yeere out of his orchard as many apples as he made 20 Butts of excellent cider." In Downing's Fruits, edition of 1866, some 643 varieties are noticed, and the American Pomological Society, 1879, endorses 321 varieties of the apple and 13 of crabs. In 1779, in Gen. Sullivan's Campaign, at Geneva, New York, Colonel Dearborn says under date of September 7th, "Here are considerable number of apple and other fruit trees;" the Journal of Capt. Nukercksays, "a great plenty of apple and peach trees;" Dr. Campfield writes, "a considerable number of apple trees 20 or 30 years old;" and Gen. Sullivan in his official report says, " a great number of fruit trees." In a pamphlet of 1798, it is stated that one farmer near Geneva sold cider this year to the amount of $1200. About five miles from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 1779, apple seeds were sown by colonists.

In 1643, Henry Brewer found on the coast of Chile "very good apples." In Chiloe, Darwin says he never saw apples anywhere thrive so well, and "they are propagated by cuttings." Bridges speaks of the houses in portions of Chile being placed in groves of apple trees. About Quito, says Hall, the apples are plentiful but small and ill-flavored. In Jamaica, says Lunan, no apple yet introduced thrives and the fruits are usually seedless. Among the introduced fruits of New Zealand, Wilkes, 1840, mentions the apple. Thunberg does not mention them in Japan in 1776, but Hogg does in 1864; they are cultivated in the north of China and in northern India, small in some districts, remarkably fine in others. In Turkestan, in 1219, Ye-lu-Tch'u-tsai, a Chinese traveler, found dense forests of apple trees. The apple is generally cultivated throughout the Arab countries but is hardly edible, being prized for its odor. At Ismailia, Egypt, the apple grows but does not bear fruit. The fruit grows at Tonquin, north Africa, but is scarcely fit to be eaten. The apple grows in Scandinavia as far as 62° north, in the Orkneys 60° north and, according to Rhind, bears very fair fruit. Apples are grown in. northern Russia but the most esteemed come to St. Petersburg from the Crimea. They are plentiful in Britain, France, Switzerland and Germany. The fruit is said to be poor in Italy, as in Greece. In America, the apple bears fair fruit as far north as Quebec and is found in varieties in all the states even to Mexico. In Venezuela, the fruit is noted by Humboldt to be of good quality. In Peru, the apple is said to be uneatable. In La Plata, the tree grows well, but the fruit is of poor quality. A dwarf form is called the Paradise apple and another, in France, the Doucin, or St. Johns apple. On account of rapid and low growth, these dwarfs are principally used as stocks for dwarf apples.

Pyrus pashia Buch.-Ham.


The hills of India. The fruit is edible when it has become somewhat decayed. It is even then harsh and not sweet.

Pyrus prunifolia Willd.


Southern Siberia, northern China and Tartary. This is one of the forms of the tree cultivated as the Siberian Crab.

Pyrus rivularis Dougl.


Alaska, Oregon, northern California and Nevada. The fruit is about the size of a cherry and is employed by the Indians of Alaska as a part of their food supply.7 They are also used by the Indians of California 8 and of Oregon.9 The Oregon crab is called by the 'Chinooks powitch.10 In the early settlement of Oregon, this fruit was used largely for preserves. Aside from the great proportion of seeds, it does not make a bad sauce.11

Pyrus salicifolia Pall.


Caucasus, Greece, Turkey, Persia and Southwest Russia. The fruit is edible, but the tree is utilized more as a superior stock for grafting.

Pyrus salvifolia DC.


This species is wild and cultivated about Aurelia in France. The fruit is thick, long and fit for perry.

Pyrus sieboldi Regel.

Japan. The fruit is edible after frosts.

Pyrus sinensis Lindl.


China. This species is known in the gardens of India as a good baking fruit.

Pyrus sinensis Poir.

China. This species furnishes a quince in China.

Pyrus sorbus Gaertn.


North Africa and Europe. The fruit is about the size of a gooseberry and is acerb. It is used in Brittany for making a cider, which, however, has an unpleasant smell. There is a pear-shaped, an apple-shaped and a berry-shaped variety. In the Crimea, there is a variety with a large, red fruit the shape of a pear.

Pyrus spectabilis Ait.


China. The fruit is small, round, angular and about the size of a cherry, yellow when ripe but flavorless and fit to eat only when in a state of incipient decay at which period it takes the color and taste of the medlar. There are several varieties in cultivation.

Pyrus syriaca Boiss.

Asia Minor and Syria. The mellow fruit is eaten.

Pyrus torminalis Ehrh.


Europe. The small fruits, which are greenish, with dark spots, have an extremely acid flavor but, when affected by frost, become mealy and rather agreeable to the taste. They are sometimes collected and sold in the shops in England. The fruit is sold in the London markets.

Pyrus trilobata DC.


Syria. This species has fruits of a pleasant flavor, tasting like pears, according to Kotschy; they are frequently collected and brought to market in Damascus.