This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Florist and Pomologist has the following: " In the course of a series of lectures, published some short time since by the late Prof. Karl Koch, the origin of our various fruits is one of the subjects treated on. The learned and traveled Prof., in these lectures, mentions six species of Pyrus, as the progenitors of our cultivated pears, namely: Pyrus sinensis, of Desfontaine, from China and Japan; Pyrus cordata, of Desvaux, from France, etc.; Pyrus Achras, of Gaertner, from the steppes of Southern Russia, and naturalized in France and Germany; P Sinai, of Desfontaine, from Syria; Pyrus elseagrifolia, of Pallas, from northeast Asia Minor; and Pyrus salicifolia of the younger Linnaeus, from the Caucasus. Linnaeus united all the Pears, both wild and cultivated, under the name of Pyrus communis, and this name we employ now for the cultivated varieties collectively. At Torek, in the northern Caucasus, Pear trees eighty and even a hundred feet high are not rare, with trunks three to four feet in diameter. Siebold introduced into the botanic garden at Leyien, eight varieties of Japanese cultivated Pears, differing widely in size, shape, flavor, and time of ripening.
As a species, Pyrus sinensis is distinguished by its rather large ovate or nearly round leaves, which are- abruptly narrowed into a short point, and furnished with bristle-pointed teeth; in the spring, when they unfold, they are of a brownish red. In Germany it is planted for ornamental purposes, but it has not yet borne either flower or fruit.
Pyrus cordata is said to occur in Persia, but Prof. Koch thinks the Persian tree is probably Pyrus Achras. The latter must have originally existed in the steppes of Southern Russia, especially in the country of Don Cossacks, for so far back as the history goes, the pear tree has played an important part in the customs of the people; with them it is the sign of grief. It is likewise held in high esteem in their festivals, especially at Witsuntide: and it is under a pear tree that the annual custom takes place of making the most beautiful maiden the queen for the ensuing year. Pyrus Balansae, of Decaisne is probably distinct from Pyrus Achras, to which Boissier refers it. Pyrus Sinai is certainly one of the most interesting of pear trees: it entered largely into the parentage of the early Italian varieties, but it does not appear to have been introduced into France till towards the end of the last century. The area of its distribution in a wild state is not known with certainty: it certainly is indigenous in Syria, and perhaps also in northern Babylon or Assyria, which was formerly a Persian province, but it is doubtful whether it extends to Persia proper. This species was probably carried by the Phoenicians from Syria to lower Italy and Sicily, as well as Rosa Damascena, before Homer's time.
Pyrus Syriaca and Pyrus glabra, of Boissier, together with the Pyrus Boveana, of Decaisne, are varieties of Pyrus Sinai, belong to Pyrus Achras. Pyrus elseagrifolia (not elseagnifolia, as sometimes written) has played an important part in originating garden varieties. Pyrus Cotschyana, of Boissier, is an Oriental variety with very wooly leaves, and a large, round fruit. It is uncertain whether Pyrus salicifolia, which is a very ornamental species, has contributed to the production of cultivated varieties: but it is the Achras of Theophrastus and other early writers, and is still very widely dispersed in Greece".