by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
It is a rare occasion to see deer in a neighborhood but it is even rarer to see them at 2 o’clock in the afternoon standing under a pear tree steady gobbling up pears. This crazy scene was taking place in my backyard just a few days ago! After watching them eat for what seemed like 30 minutes, I decided to study a little bit more about pear trees.
To my surprise, the wild pear tree (Pyrus communis) and all of the other similar species originated in Europe. It is not documented exactly how or when the pear came across the great lake, but the wildlife sure is happy about it. The pear has evolved over many years from a nasty, gritty pear to a delicious fruit that southerner’s like to lather up with mayonnaise and cheese…they call it a pear salad. The pear tree is very hardy and most cultivars are blight resistant. They prefer sandy-loamy soils with a pH of 6.0-6.5 and that are well drained, but some species also do well in poorly drained soils. Their shape is very distinctive, from the Bradford pear to the Wild pear; they all have the same “pear” shape which is skinny on the top and fat on the bottom. As for Bradford pears, they are not very palatable to wildlife. The fruits are not as numerous or as large and they are geared more toward aesthetics than wildlife forage. The best pear trees to plant for deer and other wildlife are species that resist fire blight such as Keiffer or moon glow. Be sure to check local nurseries and find out what cultivars they have.
Pear trees are a great source of wildlife food and are pretty self-sustainable. They require little to no maintenance and produce fruits at certain times of the year, depending on the specie. When they are not fruit bearing, they have small to medium sized white blooms. I have four in my back yard and judging by how many pears they have produced, they are very old. However, thanks to the deer population in the backyard, the lowest hanging branches are lucky to even bear a twig.
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