The many spring phases of the Bartlett pear

The old ‘Bartlett’ pear–it was already well established when we arrived at this location four years ago–displays both good and bad signs of spring.

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At the bottom of the image we see flowers open and also a bud not yet open, as well as (at the very bottom) little fruitlets that appear to have set, post-bloom. There is lots of lush-looking new foliar growth.

At the same time, we see leaves that are blackened and wilted. These are the early signs of Fire Blight, a serious disease pest of pear trees. Bartlett is one of the worst-affected varieties. Notice also lots of deadwood; these are branches and twigs that were killed by Fire Blight last year or longer ago (and which I’ve not gotten around to pruning out because the tree’s upper parts are somewhat difficult to reach).

Fire Blight may eventually kill this tree. In the meantime, it is capable of fruiting, and we have had delicious fruit from this tree in recent years. This year looked promising, as there was a good bloom and growth surge, despite how awful it looked due to the blight at the end of last summer. However, it seems little of this spring’s fruit set has held.

I had to expect this to be a bad year for Fire Blight–well, a good year from the perspective of the blight–because it was so wet. Many fruit tree diseases really thrive after an unusually rainy winter and spring. And no year on record in California has been as unusually rainy as this one has been.

The photo was taken on 12 April. Two weeks later, the blight has only spread, although the tree continues to put out new foliar growth. It is a survivor, and will push on at least a while longer.

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