Quick facts

Common names: pear, domestic pear, common pear, European pear

Scientific name: Pyrus communis

Family: Rosaceae

Origin: non-native

Pear trees are deciduous and usually grow to about 12m, though some can reach up to 20m. The crown of the tree is domed and the branches can have spiny twigs. The bark is grey-brown and broken into small square shapes.

Look out for: the grey-brown bark which has a square-shaped pattern.

Identified in winter by: their twigs which are very spiny.

What do pear trees look like?

Pear single leaf

Credit: Nature Photographers Ltd / WTML

Leaves

Alternate, oval, pointed leaves with toothed edges and long stalks. The leaves are light green in spring, turning to gold and then black in autumn.

Pear flowers close-up

Credit: Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Flowers

Flowers are white throughout and appear in clusters up to 3cm across.

Pears on branch

Credit: Clare Gainey / Alamy Stock Photo

Fruits

The fruits grow on long stalks and ripen to a golden yellow colour with sweet, grainy-textured flesh.

Not to be confused with:

Plymouth pear (Pyrus cordata) which is a very rare species found only in two locations around Plymouth and Truro. Plymouth pear fruit is brown and woody unlike juicy domestic pears.

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Did you know?

There are over 3,000 varieties of pear grown around the world.

Where to find pear trees

Pear trees are native to southern, central and western Europe and grow best in light, deep soils in a mild climate. They have been grown in gardens and orchards throughout much of the UK since AD 995 and many cultivars now exist. Naturalised or wild pear (Pyrus pyraster) trees can be found in hedges, woodland margins, old gardens and on railway banks and waste ground. They spread easily by seed and by discarded cores.

Pear with carrion crow

Credit: FLPA / Alamy Stock Photo

Value to wildlife

The fruit of pear trees is eaten by birds, such as thrush and blackbird, and the flowers are a popular food source for bees. Caterpillars live in the foliage which is a fantastic habitat, providing shelter and sustenance during their transition into moths and butterflies.

Mythology and symbolism

Pear trees can live up to 250 years and because of this, the ancient Chinese believed the pear was a symbol of immortality.

Famously, the pear appears in the song the Twelve Days of Christmas, in which a 'partridge in a pear tree' was sent by the subject's true love on the first day of Christmas. Pear trees only feature in the English version of this song.

Pear and cheese tart

Credit: Photoakto / Alamy Stock Photo

Uses of pear

Pear trees have been cultivated in gardens and orchards to produce sweet, edible fruit. Pears are also used to make cider and can be cooked. The timber, or pearwood, is popular in the construction of woodwind instruments and is also used for wood carving. The wood does not retain colour, smell or flavour and resists warping and splintering, making it a valuable material for kitchen utensils, spoons and stirrers.

Did you know?

Unlike an apple, pears have no hollow at the stem so when they grow they begin as a narrow cylinder and broaden out, creating the well-known 'pear shape'.

Threats and conservation

Pear trees are prone to a number of infectious diseases, including fungal diseases such as apple and pear scab and bacterial diseases such as fire blight. These affect both leaves and fruit and if left untreated can completely defoliate the trees, leading to death.