This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
I send you some tips and branches from my injured pear trees. I hope you can tell me what ails them. The ends of branches, new growths and fruit buds look very much like those of the buttonwood, which of late years has been subject to some such trouble. Unless our books on the pears are very loose and meagre about its pests, the hurt to my trees seems that from a new foe.
Is the Scolytus guilty of this harm? I cannot trace on my trees the marks of his work named in the books. I have carefully searched but cannot find him. That "small beetle" has not been seen. Neither do I find that small hole as of a pin or needle, at top or base of any bud, for him to go out or in. Nor have I struck any gallery of his boring around the pith of limb or bud. No leaves wither after starting, as they do where he cuts their sap conduits.
On some of the last year's growths, every leaf-bud fails, and the shoot shrivels and dies down to the old wood, whence a new one starts out to try its chances. On another of last year's growing, only the end bud lives. There, right beside this you may find shoots from whose sides at intervals, one or two buds start, while all the rest are dead. In like manner the fruit buds are served. Some die clear down to the branch, others only to their base, whence pushes out a thrifty growth for a new struggle with its foe. Some trees, and some parts of the same tree, suffer more than others. The tops are most exempt from harm. This year a tree may hardly yield a fruit, while the next bears superbly in quantity and quality. The wood of two years growth rarely shows injury, and then it comes from a starved growth, or from the sensitiveness and annoyance which few think trees suffer, when their thrift or freedom is molested.
Now I am at a loss to know what ails my trees. I find on those injured most, a squad of small brown lice, clustering around the buds and roots of leaves. These are visited by lots of ants, who seem to feed on some sweetness distilled from them or from the wounds they make. Around such buds and leaves a black mold or mildew spreads and closely clings.
I have long held a lurking suspicion that the roots of evergreens, dead or alive, were hurtful to the pear. The ground where my pear trees stand, was some years since, well filled with Norway Spruce, which I cut down when 12 to 15 feet high. I have no fixed theory about this, but only make a query. Perhaps the living leaves and fronds work just as much, if any harm, to this favorite fruit. Your counsel is asked as to the cause and remedy.
[The appearances were quite novel to us. Some of the specimens were sent to one of the most distinguished mycologists, who acknowledged himself completely puzzled. This is all we can say at present. - Ed. G. M.]