The Orient Pear
Brooks D. Drain
The University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station

Circular No. 95
Issued November, 1945
Reprinted December, 1947


Fruit breeders have been trying for over 100 years to develop blight-free pears of good quality that can be grown in the Southern States. Garber, an accidental cross, was discovered about 1840 and is still grown in Tennessee. Kieffer and Pineapple are widely grown, but are susceptible to fireblight and produce fruit of low quality. Early blooming is another failing of these Sand pear hybrids. Census data presented in the accompanying table indicate wide interest in pears in spite of low quality. The pear is better adapted than the apple to the lower South and is rarely troubled by bitter rot or blotch. Production has been limited, however, by fire blight and low-quality fruit.

Pear trees in Southern States, 1900 and 1940

Number of bearing trees*
1900 1940
Alabama  206,619 142,358
Arkansas 202,109 126,392
Delaware 394,814 10,707
Florida 208,145 71,651
Georgia 385,166 170,316
Kentucky 322,201 133,774
Louisiana 74,669 78,293
Maryland 690,483 39,604
Mississippi 177,824 159,439
North Carolina 138,836 159,627
South Carolina 72,846 53,967
Tennessee  263,585 183,835
Texas 1,044,680 296,698**
Virginia 291,288 171,626
West Virginia 110,194 80,311
*Agricultural Census reports.
**There were also 148,023 non-bearing trees in 1940.

The Station Department of Horticulture has developed a large number of blight-resistant, good-quality pears through breeding. These seedlings are of different ages, ranging from sections of trees that have been fruiting several years to small seedlings in nursery rows. Replicated and larger plots of the best varieties are now being planted. These plantings should furnish data on comparative yields and on canning, storage, and shipping qualities. It will be some years before the new varieties can be evaluated. Meanwhile it is suggested that growers try the Orient variety, which is much better than any other known at this Station for Southern conditions.

The Orient originated in a cross of a European variety with a pear from Asia. Its fruit suggests that one parent may have been a cultivated variety from China, perhaps a mixture of species. This cross was made by Dr. Walter Van Fleet, but his records are uncertain. The variety has been tried in various parts of the United States and favorably reported for canning. The Tennessee Station received it from the Division of Plant Exploration and Introduction, with permission to name and release it.

The writer published an account of the Orient pear in the Southern Florist and Nurseryman, January 26, 1945, but not many readers have access to the article. Further data have been secured which will help in evaluating the variety. A block of 9 trees about 18 years old produced 39 3/4 bushels in 1945 and 41 bushels in 1946. The trees were spaced 20 x 20 feet, located in a large orchard, and the yields for the two years were at the rate of 477 and 492 bushels per acre respectively. These are good yields for any pear variety, and indicate that the variety is an annual cropper. In time of bloom, which was carefully checked, it averaged several days later than Kieffer; but there is enough overlap for it to be pollinated by the earlier-blooming variety.

Fruit picked when fully mature, and when the green color started changing to yellow, kept from 5 to 7 days before it reached canning stage in a common storage averaging about 70°F. A second lot of fruit, placed immediately after picking, in a refrigerator held at 40° to 50°F kept for 30 days before reaching canning condition. Orient is ready to pick at Knoxville about the middle of August. The weather is warm, and it is not to be expected that this fruit can be held long. These storage trials indicate that canning can be spread over a considerable period. from two to three pickings usually have been made over a 10-day period, and this helps to extend the canning operations.

Figure 1 shows a specimen of Orient fruit. It averages large, often 3¼ inches in diameter. It handles well when hard ripe, but bruises easily when mellow. The skin is thick and tough, with a somewhat rough finish. The creamy-white flesh is of good texture but mild in flavor. There are a few grit cells near the core, which are usually removed in coring. Fruit picked at the proper stage ripens uniformly and rarely shows flesh breakdown near the core.

The trees may not be immune from fire blight, but injury from this disease has not been observed in the Station orchard. Figure 2 shows a tree of Orient about 18 years old that has had very little pruning. Young trees have a spreading habit of growth and become drooping from carrying loads of fruit. The trees are vigorous growers, with medium-stocky branches.

The writer has never found any thorns. The dark-green foliage attracts attention among other pear varieties. The leaves remain on the trees until late, and under Tennessee conditions rarely show leaf spot.

Figure 3 shows two cans1 of Orient pear. The creamy-white flesh makes an attractive pack, comparing favorably with standard varieties. Time of processing is somewhat longer than for Bartlett, and the thick skin makes it harder to peel. The fruit should be graded for uniformity in ripeness, as immature halves require longer heating.

Several farmers fruited Orient pear in 1947 and were well pleased with this variety.

Technical Description


TREE: Large and very vigorous, spreading, becoming drooping with loads of fruit. Top open, requiring very little pruning. Trunk stocky, branches medium-thick, gray-brown. Branchlets medium, stocky, reddish-green, dull, pubescent, with medium-sized, raised lenticels.
Leaf-buds large, long, pointed; leaf-scars obscure. Leaves 3½ to 4 inches long, 2 inches wide, oval thick, and leathery; apex pointed; margin sharply serrate; petiole ¾ to 1 inch long; stipules usually present and very long. Flower-buds large, conical, pointed, and plump; flowers large, opening several days after Kieffer; pedicels 1 inch long, medium-slender. Pollen germinates poorly in Tennessee.

FRUIT: Picked in mid-August at Knoxville, Tennessee; large- 3¼ by 3 1/4 inches- uniform in size and shape, roundish obovate, sides unequal; stem 1 to 1 1/4 inches long, medium-thick, usually fleshy at the base and inserted at a slight angle; cavity obtuse, shallow, broad, and furrowed; calyx large, open; lobes separated at base, long, broad, acute; basin deep, wide, abrupt, and furrowed; skin rough, dull, thick, and tough; color greenish-yellow, becoming lemon-yellow mottled with russet; dots medium in number, large russet, and conspicuous; flesh creamy-white, granular near the core, melting and juicy; flavor mild, sweet, subacid, and good, very good for canning. Core small, open, abaxile; core-lines meeting; calyx tube short, medium in width, and funnel-shaped; carpels oblong-obovate; seeds very long and narrow, acute and often abortive.

1All food processing trials were made by G.A. Shuey.