Pear trees are incredibly popular because they are medium-sized, produce beautiful white flowers, and are relatively hardy. Not all pears are edible, though, with several ornamental pear tree varieties growing worldwide. With over 800 different pear tree species, it can be challenging to determine which pears are edible versus ornamental.
Usually, the best way to determine if a pear is ornamental or edible is to look at the tree’s shape, smell the flowers, and examine the fruit. If a pear tree is narrow with a small hard fruit and a fishy smell, chances are the pear is not an edible variety. Luckily, even ornamental pears are non-toxic and won’t cause immediate medical damage if accidentally ingested. Eating large quantities of ornamental pears will only produce mild medical symptoms.
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How Can I Tell If a Pear Tree is Ornamental?
There are many species of pear trees, including trees that produce ornamental fruits and some with edible fruits. Because pear trees grow quickly and stay a suitable shape and size, many neighborhoods and developments will use ornamental pear trees throughout the landscaping.
Identifying the type of tree you have will help you determine if your pear is edible. Usually, ornamental pear trees share similar properties that can help with identification. To determine if a pear tree is ornamental, consider the following:
- Smell – Most pear trees will bloom before the fruit starts to develop. Usually, ornamental pear trees will have a rotten smell. The flowers can smell “fishy” and unpleasant, indicating the fruit is not edible. Edible pear trees, comparatively, usually have a sweet-smelling flower.
- Shape – Usually, edible pear trees are broad and spread out compared to ornamental pear trees. The most common ornamental tree, the Bradford pear tree, has a narrow oval shape. Ornamental pear trees tend to be more compact.
- Fruit – The easiest way to identify a pear tree is to look at the fruit. Different pear tree species will produce various sizes, shapes, and color pears. Bradford pears, which are genuinely ornamental trees, will make tiny pears only about a half-inch in diameter. Usually, edible pear trees have large, distinctive pear-shaped fruit. Edible pears will turn yellow when ripe, while ornamental pears tend to get darker and more firm as they ripen.
Are Ornamental Pears Toxic to Eat?
Luckily, even if you accidentally eat an ornamental pear, you likely will not experience any significant medical issues. Bradford pears are a common ornamental pear found throughout the United States. While the fruit itself is not toxic, chemicals within the pear seeds can cause some mild discomfort.
A person must ingest a significant amount of pear seeds to experience even mild symptoms. Usually, when an ornamental pear poisons a person, they only experience a slight stomach ache and possible dizziness. Some people report a mild fever that breaks within a few hours. While accidental poisoning is difficult, with the side effects mild, it is essential to monitor your health and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.
Are Bradford Pears Poisonous to Dogs?
Bradford pears are by far the most common ornamental pear found throughout neighborhoods. While this pear has an off-putting taste, it likely won’t harm your dog. The pears produced by the Bradford pear tree are not poisonous to dogs. However, it is a good practice to discourage your dog from eating large amounts of Bradford pears. Too many pears can cause your dog digestion distress or an upset stomach.
What Are the Best Edible Pears?
Adding a pear tree to your yard is an excellent way to not only get beautiful landscaping but edible fresh pears. Pear trees are incredibly popular, but there are over 800 different species. Some of the most popular pear tree species that produce edible pears include:
- Summercrisp – The Summercrisp pear tree is incredibly popular for people who live in cold climates. This tree species can live in areas where the temperature drops to 50 degrees below zero. Although the origin of this tree is unknown, it resembles some common Asian pear tree species. The Summercrisp tree will grow to about 18 feet and is one of the earliest trees to flower.
- Warren – For those looking for optimal fruit quality, the Warren species of pear tree is a great option. This tree is an Oriental hybrid tree that was designed to make excellent-tasting pears. The pears are medium-sized and are best when harvested in August. Warren pears are perfect for canning or baking.
- Beierschmidt – The Beierschmidt tree is an extremely hardy pear tree species from Europe. For those who want to enjoy eating raw, juicy pears, the Beierschmidt pear tree is the best option. These pears have thin skin, which helps them to stay tender. It is best to harvest these pears in September.
- Luscious – Another popular choice for those living in cold climates, the Luscious species of pear tree is exceptionally resilient. The tree produces large and sweet pears that are best harvested late in the season, usually mid-September. These pears can be picked before they are ripe and allowed to rest for up to ten days until ripe. This pear tree species is excellent for gardeners who want to bake or preserve pears for gifts because of their relatively long shelf life.
Are Pears Healthy To Eat?
Pears are a wonderfully healthy snack and provide several vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy life. A medium-sized pear has about 100 calories but is packed full of fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, and potassium. Pears may help improve gut health and provide powerful antioxidants to help fight off free radicals in the body. Plus, pears have been linked to several studies which suggest they may be able to fend off cancer, help prevent diabetes, and even help improve heart health.
Pear trees are popular throughout the world because they stay relatively small, produce beautiful flowers, and often have edible fruit for people to enjoy. While many pear trees grow edible pears, not all pears are edible. Ornamental pear trees, like the popular Bradford pear tree, only produce ornamental fruit which should not be eaten. Luckily, ornamental pears do not pose any real medical threat if they are accidentally ingested. It takes many ornamental pears to cause a mild reaction, usually consisting of an upset stomach or slight fever. People can identify their pear tree to determine if it is edible or ornamental by looking at the tree’s shape, examining the fruit, and smelling the tree’s blossoms.
Further Reading: Are Mulberries Safe for Dogs?