pears cultivated fruit
PEAR (Pyres communis). The pear has essentially the same floral structure as the apple. In both cases the so-called fruit is composed of the flower-tube or upper end of the flower-stalk greatly dilated, and enclosing within its cellular flesh the five cartilaginous carpels which constitute the " core " and are really the true fruit. From the upper rim of the flower-tube or receptacle are given off the five sepals, the five petals, and the very numerous stamens. The form of the pear and of the apple respectively, although usually characteristic enough, is not by itself sufficient to distinguish them, for there are pears which cannot by form alone be distinguished from apples, and apples which cannot by superficial appearance be recognized from pears. The main distinction is the occurrence in the tissue of the fruit, or beneath the rind, of clusters of cells, filled with hard woody deposit in the case of the pear, constituting the "grit," while in the apple no such formation of woody cells takes place. The appearance of the tree - the bark, the foliage, the flowers - is, however, usually quite characteristic in the two species. Cultivated pears, whose number is enormous, are without doubt derived from one or two wild species widely distributed throughout Europe and western Asia, and sometimes forming part of the natural vegetation of the forests. In England, where the pear is sometimes considered wild, there is always the doubt that it may not really be so, but the produce of some seed of a cultivated tree deposited by birds or otherwise, which has degenerated into the wild spine-bearing tree known as Pyr118 COM1111172iS.
The cultivation of the pear extends to the remotest antiquity. Traces of it have been found in the Swiss lake-dwellings ; it is mentioned in the oldest Greek writings, and was cultivated by the Romans. The word "pear" or its equivalent occurs in all the Celtic languages, while in Slavonic and other dialects different appellations, but still referring to the same thing, are found, - a diversity and multiplicity of nomenclature which leads De Candolle to infer a very ancient cultivation of the tree from the shores of the Caspian to those of the Atlantic. A certain race of pears, with white clown on the under surface of their leaves, is supposed to have originated from /'. nivatis, and their fruit is chiefly used in France in the manufacture of PERRY (q.v.). Other small-fruited pears, distinguished by their precocity and apple-like fruit, may be referred to P. cordate, a species found wild in western France, and in Devonshire and Cornwall.
The late Professor Karl Koch considered that cultivated pears were the descendants of three species - P. persica (from which the bergamots have descended), P. theagrifolia, and P. sinensis. Decaisne, who made the subject one of critical study for a number of years, and not only investigated the will forms, hut carefully studied the peculiarities of the numerous varieties cultivated in the .Tardin des Plantes, refers all cultivated pears to one species, the individuals of which have in course of time diverged in various directions, so as to form now six races : - (1) the Celtic, including P. cordate; (2) the Germanic, including P. co7nmunis, P. Achras, and P. piraster ; (3) the Hellenic., including P. parviflora, P. sinaica, and others ; (4) the Pontic, including P. elreagrUblia ; (5) the Indian, comprising P. Pasehre ; and (6) the Mongolic, represented by P. sinensis. With reference to the Celtic race, P. cordate, it is interesting to note its connexion with Arthurian legend, and the Isle of Avalon or Isle of Apples. An island in Loch Awe has a Celtic legend containing the principal features of Arthurian story ; but in this case the word is "berries" instead of "apples." Dr Phene visited Armorica (Brittany) with a view of investigating these matters, and brought thence fruits of a small berry-like pear, which were identified by the writer with the PyrUS cordate of western France, as well as with a tree which had then been recently discovered in some parts of Devonshire and Cornwall by Mr Briggs. (For cultivation of pears see HORTICULTURE, vol. xii. p. 274.)