Saturday, April 19, 2008

Oldest Cultivated Fruit Tree in U.S.

Several years ago, at a Festival of Fruit in southern California, Joseph D. Postman spoke of (among other things) the oldest cultivated fruit tree in the US. I found this info from him on the net:

“During the Centennial Celebration in Danvers, Massachusetts in June 1852, the Endicott Pear Tree was heralded as "probably the oldest cultivated fruit bearing tree in New England." At that time the pear tree was over 200 years old! It had been planted by the first governor of Massachusetts, John Endicott. One hundred and fifty years have passed since that proclamation was made and the Endicott Pear Tree is still producing fruit. It is very unlikely that any other cultivated fruit tree in North America is as old. As I write this in August 2002, the Endicott Pear Tree is approximately 372 years old!

“A clone of the Endicott Pear is now growing at the NCGR [in Corvallis, Oregon] and is large enough to begin bearing fruit. The fruit is of no particular consequence, according to U.P. Hedrick. It is medium in size, unattractive, and coarse textured. But the cultivar has an impressive history and may have great genetic value in whatever traits have contributed to its great longevity.”

All this made me curious, since I grew up near there. When I was back visiting my sisters last month I decided to go look for it. My friend thought I was crazy, poking around behind an industrial parking lot on a cold blustery day. All the while I was remembering that huge old white sapote that was cut down behind the Standard Brands parking lot in Emeryville, and wondering what I would find.

It’s still there—behind a nice new wrought iron fence!

You can find more info and pictures by Googling Endicott pear.