I’ve had several inquiries as to the origin of the ‘Waugh’ Pear in last week's enews. While we don't exactly know how the tree got there, here is my take on the events that likely occurred for the decades old pear tree to end up where it lives.
After doing some research, I’m pretty sure that the var iety of pear is ‘Kieffer’, which is a cross between an Asian pear and a Bartlett pear. It's the distinct characteristics of shape, color, texture and history that make me believe it’s pretty close.
Many of the old homesteads had pear trees planted as signs of luck and to help determine property lines. They were also used as a source of food to sustain the family living on the property during the winter months. Many abandoned farms still stand today, and despite the lack of use, many Kieffer pear trees are still thriving due to their hardy nature, marking the spot where a family used to live. Kieffer pear trees are native to the region surrounding Philadelphia and were first recorded at Peter Kieffer’s fruit nursery in the 1870s. The fruits are formed from an accidental cross between a sand pear and a Bartlett pear and were cultivated for their firm flesh.
Our nursery industry, along with most, has an interesting and colorful history, and how the Kieffer pear ended up on the Waugh family homestead is an intriguing story in itself. Before the days of the automobile, goods were brought west by horse and buggy; that included nursery plants.
As homesteads were being developed after the civil war, a prosperous middle class fueled the economy. With the wave of European immigrants and the westward expansion, food producing plants were high in demand. I imagine a durable, tough plant that produces long keeping fruit would be an easy sell for any plant peddler of the day.
I encourage you to plant a tree either in your yard, at a school, at church or any place that's special to you. Next March, I’ll be grafting more fruit trees, heirloom var ieties for future generations to enjoy. If you’d like to try your hand at grafting, let me know. Maybe we’ll have a get together in the greenhouse and have a time of learning for all.
By the way, the pear trees cloned from the original tree on the Waugh family farm will always be known as the Waugh Pear!
Your friend in the garden,
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center
Plant a tree...you never know the story it will tell.