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The ManyTracks Orchard


Chokepear


unknown variety

rootstock pear planted 1978

 

large rootstock pear


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PEARS

Chokepear

Cutler
OikosEcos

L'Anse

Nova

Patten

Sierra

Southworth

Stacey

Summercrisp

pear grafts
 

A Special Pear

Not because of spectacular flavor (the 1 inch pears are pretty much inedible) but because of its beauty. To some (deer, squirrels, birds) the astringent small prolific fruit is the big draw. We planted it that first year on the homestead. It was a Bartlett Pear, brought with us from downstate. It died back the first or second winter. But the rootstock regrew, and grew, and thrived, with little to no attention for most of its life. It's likely a seedling rootstock and it was gorgeous in full bloom, and a beautiful tree any time of year.



2022 -- Drastic Measures, and Hope

April 24 - Most of the top of the pear was dead or badly damaged. Though there was an amazing amount of clean shoots that grew. This tree has a strong soul and will to live. That is what will pull it through I think. The last big cut was made today, the top two thirds or so, plus a major lower limb and some branch ends. Thankfully all went well, if sad, and Steve managed the do the job without damaging any of the lower, and healthy, growing grafts. It's a guessing game whether this will help but I figure it has to be best to get as much of the fireblight infected wood out of the orchard. The lower branches certainly still show signs of fb but not as bad.

final cut of chokepear 2022     final cut of chokepear 2022

Three trips with the pickup to get all those snarly gnarly branches and wood out to the pile away from the orchard out in the field. I plan to spray thoroughly with Neem oil when the weather is more favorable. And with the height down to a reachable level I will be able to pick off any blossoms should the tree decide to bloom. Though it is hard to see the tree now and not mourn its previous beautiful and stately self, I know that doesn't help the tree nor myself. So I enjoy the memory of it's former state and deliberately turn to imagining the future rebirth as a healthy "new" pear tree with human edible fruit and healthy regrowth for the many birds and squirrels who have also loved this tree.



2021 -- Second Trunk Comes Down

Last year I had decided to cut off one of the three trunks on our ailing tall old seedling rootstock pear, hoping that would help. Well, I'm not sure if it triggered a tremendous attack of fireblight or if that was the result of our record long hot summer, fireblight being something we seldom see here and it loving that kind of weather. One way or another it was a rough year for the pear. But the season ended with quite a bit of green leaves so it was still alive.

2nd chokepear trunk cut down early April 2021Still not knowing the best thing to do I decided to go ahead with my plan to remove the second largest trunk this year, leaving the healthier and youngest (relatively speaking) north section. My deciding means Steve sawing, of course, which he did April 4 with no surprises, dropping the large trunk between windmill and solar panels, and not near any nearby young fruit trees. Then there was a lot of hauling tangly pear brush away, plus cutting up the useable wood, saving a few pieces for carving. Steve did that while I continued my pruning. Should every orchardist have such an accommodating, and much appreciated, partner! It is with high hopes that I wish our old pear a healthy recovery. I'd sure love to have it stay around for many more decades.

I cut off all the dead and damaged wood I could reach. The only grafts to survive were the hardy and apparently disease resistant L'Anse pears. With those grafts finally getting some light they grew quite well this year. I continued to cut out damaged limbs, branches and spurs till mid season. The top of the tree is dead but there is a lot of healthy looking growth below that. Next year Steve will cut out the top, wherever he can safely reach. Our beautiful, full, large pear tree is no longer what it was. But I'll do my best to help it continue and become a revived and revised tree.

Through the summer the fireblight didn't seem to get much worse, but it was apparent that more branches were badly damaged. I pruned off more infected shoots and spurs and small wood but mostly left the large cuts for dormant pruning. There was a lot of healthy green leaves and shoots, however, so I am hopeful.



2020 -- Big Pear Gets a Big Trim

April 6 - When we first moved here more than 40 years ago we planted some apple trees and a pear. I don't recall the pear variety but it died to the ground the first winter or two. The unknown but hardy rootstock regrew to become a beautiful large multi-trunked tree and prolific producer of inedible little fruits, aptly named 'chokepears'. Forward many decades and I became much more interested in fruit, edible (to us) fruit, so as we got into grafting I decided to graft some known pear varieties onto this now rather old tree. Of course, we couldn't graft onto the ideal upper branches, and even if we did it would be only for the birds and squirrels as we wouldn't be able to reach the fruit, the tree being now 40 feet tall. Undaunted, I chose to graft on the lower but quite shaded branches that we could reach with hope they would eventually grow anyway. Young grafts much prefer sun and upper dominance to grow well. Soon the venerable old chokepear sported ten new little grafts. chokepear winter 2017

We aren't the only ones who have enjoyed this tree. The the squirrels love the fruit, as did the deer before the re-fencing project put the tree inside out of reach, and likely birds eat the fruit as well. And it is obvious the woodpeckers and sapsuckers also love the tree, peppering the bark with myriad little holes, enough over the years as to possibly weaken the tree. The past several seasons the top leaves have been turning brown early. Most of the tree is still looking good and healthy but this has been a concern. I debated taking down the largest and most riddled of the three trunks hoping that it would help put more energy into the other 2/3 from the extensive roots system. It would also really open up this overgrown tree for more light and air, and give those little low grafts a better chance. I really don't know, but we had success cutting back the old apple trees so I decided to do it. It wasn't an easy decision because it is a beautiful tree that we really like.

This past week, once the snow receded from the base of the tree, I started pruning off side branches of the limbs of the chosen trunk. This is a very tangly tree, all branches well tangled into and around each other. My plan was to get as much cut off as I could reach and cut through with my pruning saw to hopefully limit the damage on nearby branches of the remaining two trunks, and most particular try to save the grafts on those branches, when the big trunk came down. Of course, the top priority was simply get it down safely and that would be Steve's domain. And then there were the nearest other fruit trees - were they far enough away, out of harms reach? I hoped so. Thankfully Steve was more sure they would be fine, as would the fence. I trusted him to put it down where we wanted it, he'd certainly done enough of that, but this wouldn't be an easy cut. The large trunk to be sawn was four feet from the ground, close in to the other two.

But today was the day. It was calm, cool but not too cold, cloudy. I went out and finished my part then got Steve to come out and we decided on a strategy. I went to get the taller ladder and he went to get the chainsaws. I took a long last look at this wonderful tri-trunked tree, then Steve started in. Judiciously balancing on ladder and limbs he started taking off what limbs and branches he could reach. I pulled a few with a rope as he cut to get them to come down in a bare spot instead of taking out a lower good limb. So far so good. I was amazed that several grafts right in harms way were still there. Then came the big cut. ... and down it came, right where it was sawing up trunk woodsupposed to, no damage to the remaining limbs, and not even very close to the other trees. Sigh of relief. Steve went on to cutting up the trunk and limbs. I hauled some brush then went in to make lunch.

trunk sawn down

It looks a little out of balance but not as bad as I'd feared. It certainly is more open and it will grow into that bare area. In future years we'll take down a few of the east branches to help balance the tree. The little brush loving birds, and squirrel, will get a big fresh addition to their nearby home and we get a really nice pile of hot firewood, and probably some carving wood. All in a days (or several days) work.


Fireblight. What more is there to be said? It hit fast, it hit hard. We had never experienced anything like it, and hope to not ever again.

With record heat and good rains, "excellent" fireblight weather, in addition to the stress of the extreme "pruning", it was too much I think for this tree which was already showing signs of less than optimum health. Whatever the reason by mid June I noticed FB strikes in lower areas and a lot in the upper part. The top of the 2nd large trunk leaves were small and sparse. I started out cutting out all strikes that I could reach (mostly spurs) including the first graft to fall - Sierra '18 . I continued pruning out strikes until I realized it was useless. The tree was full of FB, more brown than green, maybe 90% by the end of summer, all grafts except L'Anse were gone. It was truly a sad sight. Stacey was also hit hard, losing most grafts and a lot of the main tree. Nearby Summercrisp had no strikes, nor were there any in the many young pears except usser5 north of the fence. There were a few strikes in the apples but thankfully minimal.

I think I'm going to take down the 2nd trunk in the spring. I have no idea if it will help or is a good idea but my hope is the energy can then all go into the north, smallest trunk with the 3 L'Anse grafts, and with much better air circulation. There were still green leaves at the end of summer, more lower down than upper, so hopefully the tree can make it through the winter and recover next year. I do miss that beautiful full tree; it was, and always will be, special. But maybe it can rebuild a new life for itself. I hope so.



2018 - Cut off several med-lg limbs above new grafts, cut out lrge upward growing limb south side June. Helped but does need to open up more for lower grafts which are very slow growing. Grafted Nova, Sierra & Cutler onto upright shoots halfway out on low branches. Healthy, vigorous, beautiful. FULL of fruit. Squirrel(s) living in brush pile north of fence doing best to eat them all. November tasted one, well frozen but thawed, and it was surprisingly edible, very little astringency.

Industrious Squirrels Help in the Orchard - November 25, 2018

Our large "chokepear" is beautiful in bloom and prolific in fruit. Unfortunately for us the fruit is small (pingpong ball size) and very astringent. We call it a chokepear but it is simply a common pear seedling that was used for rootstock for a Bartlett pear we planted almost 40 yrs ago. The tree died the first or second winter and the rootstock grew up from the roots to be a beautiful large tree. Up until a few years ago I didn't pay much attention to it except to admire it. It was outside the fence and the deer and squirrels and other creatures made good use of the fruit, always clearing up whatever there was, so I had never paid attention to the fruit either.

When we re-fenced the expanded orchard last year the old pear ended up inside the fence - outside of the reach of the deer. And I became quite aware of how much fruit it put out, and dropped. I was sorry to have taken it away from the deer but picking up hundreds (thousands?) of little chokepears just wasn't in my schedule, or desire. I thought of raking up a few buckets for them this year but I don't mow under this tree so there was no way to rake them up from the tall vegetation. I would have liked to remove the the fruit not only for the deer but it helps for disease control to keep drops picked up. But they were left, scattered thickly under the tree and underfoot.

Now the deer couldn't get at the fruit but a little thing like a fence certainly wasn't going to stop a squirrel. Especially with a wonderfully large brush pile just outside for shelter. It, or they (I've only seen one at a time), had a well packed runway from brush-pile to tree, and a well used favorite limb to eat on. It always had little round pears stashed against a spur or branch, and a large mound of munched pieces and partly eaten fruit below. It was obviously doing its best to eat as many as it could, and being quite vocal about any intrusion into its personal feed lot.

squirrel made piles of small chokepearsIt was an early cold this year and up until a few days ago we had about 8" of snow - not a lot but enough to make it feel very much like winter already. Then came two days of balmy above freezing 40 degree rain. That melted almost all of our snow and I took advantage of the warm (these things are relative) weather to do a few more chores out in the orchard. I walked by the chokepear, snow gone and grass matted down, to find, to my great surprise, five neat piles of chokepears. There were still some scattered around but not many. The squirrel(s) had done quite a job! I was very impressed. I would not be so impressed, of course, if these had been good edible pears! But I did my duty, got out my shovel and scooped up three bucket-loads, dumping them outside the fence for the deer, and the squirrel. I wasn't nearly as neat in doing my part but I got the job done. I don't know if the deer are going to get any but the squirrel went right to work on the pile right outside its brushy door. 



multi trunk of chokepear2017 - Tree came out of winter fine and happily alive. Cut off 3 smaller lowest limbs, too low and in way. Half full of blossoms 5/26, mostly in top half; 6/1 pretty much over. However, late in season I noticed top of largest trunks leaves browning and very top lost leaves (smaller north branch seems OK). These trunks have significant sapsucker holes. Lower area healthy and green. Top dying??

6/1 grafted leftover scion pcs onto current year growth of lower branches. : west-Patten; east-Savignac; north and south - L’Anse. Sav. didn’t grow (neither did main graft on usser. rootstock). Other grafts took and grew, Patten and L’anse S 3-4" shoots; L’Anse N leaves. Light color but healthy (I’m sure too much shaded). Cut out some growth around grafts. Prune out more next year.



2016 - Usually I haven’t paid any attention to the fruit, but 2016 had an exceptional set. I’m sure the most we’ve ever had. Tree was loaded and the ground covered with the small pears. Deer loved them. When ripe and dropped they lost a bit of the astringency and did have a taste of pear. But not enough to eat them. green fruit on chokepear

I planted some ripe fruit to see if I can grow rootstock to graft. Also plan to graft onto the tree and start pruning it. BUT, after the record warm Nov into Dec, then sudden drop in mid Dec to zero temps, I noticed bark peeling off all over tree. Is this normal? Sort of looks like the american plum which does similar. Or is it massive bark splits from sudden temp drop? I hope the former and that it is just shedding outer bark, but is really OK. The trunk is covered with sapsucker holes.



1979 - 2015

1978? 1979? Rootstock from Bartlett pear that died in 1980-82. from Midland nursery. I assume it is common pear seedling, or it could be a commercial OhF rootstock. Grew into a beautiful, large tree. In 2002 or so we noticed some blossoms (may likely have had some before). It fruited small, hard VERY bitter little pears. Medsger’s "Edible Wild Plants" lists a "choke pear (pyrus communis) that seemed to fit it so that's what we called it. It has continued to bloom prolifically most years, a great pollinator for our regular pears, since we’ve had some fruit on Stacey and Summercrisp. Didn’t do anything to the tree except admire it until 2016.



Copyright Susan Robishaw


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