The Truth about the Manchurian Pear Tree
The Manchurian pear (Pyrus ussuriensis) tree originated in Manchuria, Korea, Ussuri, and Northern Japan. It is a deciduous tree which grows to be around 45 feet tall. The Manchurian pear tree does not bear edible fruit, but is highly popular as an ornamental tree used for landscaping.
This ornamental pear has beautifully dark green serrated leaves which turn to colors of scarlet, gold and plum in the fall. This is the primary reason people buy the Manchurian pear and grow it in their yards--it has spectacular foliage colors. In addition, it is one of the first trees to bloom in the spring and it is covered with small, white flowers. The fruit of this pear tree is tiny and round, more like a berry than a pear, and it will attract birds to your yard in the fall.
The Manchurian pear tree is a very hardy tree that is frost resistant. It likes loose soil with plenty of drainage. It does best in full sun. This pear tree grows well with organic fertilizers, such as dried manure and compost. They have very strong roots but not the sort that will lift pavement off the ground.
In Australia, an interesting mix-up occurred involving the Manchurian pear tree and the callery pear tree. Up until 1999, Manchurian pear trees in Australia had been mislabeled. What happened was that the people who thought they were planting Manchurian pears were really planting Pyrus calleryana, and not only that but a poor quality clone. These callery pears were most likely Bradford pears or a relative of the Bradford pear tree.
These trees had all the same problems as the Bradford pear tree, including the branches which break apart when the tree gets to be around fifteen years old, and the messy berry-like fruits which birds drop all over the yard, making a mess. In spite of all its faults, people still plant the Bradford pear in great numbers every year, especially across the southern portion of the United States.
As long as you know to expect broken branches in storms and replace the Bradford pear trees every fifteen to twenty years, you still have a very beautiful tree to enjoy, which is a standout in any yard. In Australia, once the discovery of the mislabeled callery pears was made, the real Manchurian pear tree was found and sold in nurseries. But there are people still trying to establish the identity of some of the cultivars mistakenly planted. Among those misidentified were eight trees that grace the green at Burnley College.
At many locations in Australia people are still dealing with the callery pear tree mix-up. The splitting branches do seem to put most of the trees in the same family as the Bradford pear tree. Many of these trees have now been in the ground long enough that the splitting trunks and branches are being revealed. In some cases, they will probably be replaced with the Manchurian pear tree.
The Manchurian pear tree is heftier than the Bradford pear. It also does not have the symmetrical branches which are too weak to bear any weight. A layer of ice and snow is all it takes to break a Bradford pear tree in half. Because of their tendency to break apart and land on power lines, there are some communities in the United States where it is illegal to plant a Bradford pear tree. There are no such restrictions against the Manchurian pear, which has all of the same colors of flowers and foliage from spring to fall. It seems to be the perfect tree for many landscapes, from backyards to parks and streets. It is also just the right tree for people who want to lure birds into their backyards and gardens.