June 17, 2015
I'm highly reluctant to mention this, but in our current national climate where fact is fiction and fiction is fact (--God bless you George Orwell--) I need to express my concern about a brief article in the current Pome News. In the '80s and '90s I was a member of NAFEX, which is basically written by the members sending in articles. There were some excellent articles, but there were the occasional ones that made me cringe. I didn't write in to send corrections or clarifications. I think that I now regret that.
The one that makes me cringe in this latest issue of Pome News (pp. 10-11) would seem to suggest that a couple of varieties of pears could arise from crabapple seeds. The accompanying photograph shows the crabapples in the center, what appears to be Asian pears on the left, and a different pear on the right. Clearly this is biologically impossible, but the possibility of a mix-up of pots or perhaps ID tags getting put in the wrong pots doesn't even appear to be considered.
I'm wondering if perhaps an Editorial Board or an Editorial Consultant with a solid background in biology might be a useful adjunct. I just don't want to see people misinformed in publications which are meant to inform. I apologize for bringing up this issue because no one wants to be criticized, but there have been times in the past where I should have piped up but didn't. I just want people to learn factual things and not be misinformed.
My sincere apologies for bringing this up, but I strongly believe it needs to be addressed.
March 16, 2015
June 17, 2015
October 12, 2017
Hi Reinettes (Tim),
Jafar forwarded me your concern on my editorial piece in the Fall issue of the Pome News. I apologize if it led you to believe that pear trees can result from crabapple pips. That definitely was not my intention.
It’s well known within the pome breeding world that apple trees grown from apple pips rarely duplicate the fruit of the parent tree, and that actually was what I was trying to convey in my humorous anecdotal piece. I wrote it one morning over coffee in remembrance of my father, who was addicted to fruit trees. In this particular instance he’d brought home bare roots that were supposed to be Roman Beauty apples and which instead matured to produce astringent crabapples. Forty years later, I stuck crabapple pips in several pots and ultimately ended up with fruit that in no way resembled the original crabapple I’d started with.
I wrote: “One more closely mimics a perry pear, the other a Comice, until you bite into it and wonder how the Asian pear snuck in.” I had thought that the use of the word “mimics” (dictionary meaning: inclined to copy, imitative, having the nature of mimicry or imitation) would be sufficient to not mislead the reader. I apologize if that wasn't the case. Perhaps I should have said “mimics in appearance.” I added the photo to illustrate the amazing difference in shape and size between parent and offspring fruit. (Yes, on the left and right of the parent crabapples are the actual fruit from the child seedlings.)
I agree with you. You cannot get pear trees from crabapple pips. However, I’ve done some investigating and it turns out that pears and apples (or crabapples) can cross pollinate. It’s a rare occurrence because of post-zygotic phase lethality issues that usually prevent the pear-apple cross from surviving. The hybrid produced is rarely a productive one, and if it does produce fruit, the fruit is usually low yielding with few (if any) viable seeds. The majority of the time the cross (if successful) results in a sterile descendant. I suppose you could loosely correlate this with a male donkey breeding with a female horse to produce an infertile mule. Although biologically possible, the end result is a reproductive dead end. (That's not to say mules aren't beneficial because they are. They just can't reproduce themselves.)
Again, my apologies for unintentionally misleading you.
bucolic (Theresa, HOS Editor)
June 17, 2015
Thank you for your response. I was profoundly reluctant to make the posting that I did, but I am naturally very critical (--in the sense of being a critical reader--) of those things that I read which are proffered to the reader as fact. I re-read the "Musings" several times before my post, and the only take-away that I could conclude from it was that those pears had supposedly arisen from crabapple seeds.
With the exception of some "rapidly, actively evolving plant families" such as the Gesneriaceae and the Orchidaceae where intergeneric crosses are occasionally produced and occasionally semi-fertile, in most older more established plant families (--and I speak here regarding evolutionary time--) intergeneric hybrids are generally very rare to impossible. Generally, if a rare seed is produced from a "wide" intergeneric cross the embryo will not reach maturity and will be non-viable. In rare cases of "wide" intergeneric crosses that produce an embryo that would otherwise die, the embryo is excised from the seed and put on agar with the appropriate nutrients to let it develop in order to get a viable plant.
Likewise, in almost every cross between two dissimilar parental stocks, the phenotypes of any F1 progeny will manifest at least some intermediacy between the phenotypes of the P1 and the P2. In the photograph accompanying the "Musings," I can discern absolutely nothing in the left and right "pear-like" purported progeny that would suggest they had a crabapple as a parent. They look like forms of pears to me.
At the beginning of Paragraph 5, you had also stated "I've never been a huge apple fan -- pears are more my thing..." which suggested to me that if you tried growing the crabapple from the seeds of windfall fruits you probably also try to grow pears from seed. It suggested to me the very real possibility of some kind of mix-up given that pips from apples and from pears can look amazingly alike when separated from the fruits. I very likely wouldn't be able to tell them apart.
Bucolic -- You can't know just how reluctant I was to post my concern, but my greater concern was that readers not be misled in any way. I apologize if I didn't quite grasp the intended humour of the article.
Sincerely and with all due respect,
October 12, 2017
Thank you for your comments. Again, my “Musings from the Bucolic” editorial piece in the Pome News was intended to be a humorous anecdote to (hopefully) solicit a chuckle or two. My apologies that it didn’t do so in your case.
To be honest, I have no idea of the crabapple’s parentage (it’s a ditch volunteer) and I have no idea who the pips’ second parent is. All I did was pick up some windfall crabapples and stick them whole (I did not extract the pips) in a few pots of soil. The following spring, two shoots emerged. I wasn’t conducting any scientific experiments. Although I am a fan of pears I’ve never grown pear trees from pear pips. I have no reason to. The annual HOS Propagation Fair is an hour’s drive away, and I use it as my scion source for additional varieties. Not to belabor the point, but as I stated previously, the resulting fruit mimicked the appearance of a pear. I did not claim they were pears. I do not believe they are pears. They have the texture and crispness of an apple when you bite into them. The larger fruit has a hint of quince aroma. Neither pip fruit has any fuzz at any stage of growth. I’d actually assumed the fruits were simply mal-formed apples. Pip presence is minimal, and yield is pathetic. The pip tree that produces the large fruit on the right in the photo has an annual yield history of 2, 1, 2, 1, which may partially explain why the fruit is so huge. The other pip tree has an annual yield history of between 3 and 6. This year it had none. Both pip trees are short-statured and horizontally branched like the crabapple parent. One pip tree is currently bronzing like the crabapple, the only two trees in my orchard that are doing so. Of the two pip trees, the one with the larger fruit has the more dissimilar leaf size to the crabapple. Then again, I look at the leaf size on my triploid apple trees (Bramley, Belle de Boscoop, etc.,) and they have huge leaves as well.
Are those pip trees the result of a crab x apple, pear x apple, or quince x apple cross? I have no idea. I’m perhaps not as quick to toss out the hybrid notion as you are, but I’m also perfectly content to accept a crab x apple verdict. When I was a kid and odd-shaped fruit, veggies or animals showed up, we simply called them “throw-backs.” I don’t know if that term is even used any more.
I learned long ago to not downplay the abilities of Mother Nature. She’s adept at pitching curve balls. For kicks and giggles, I’ll throw out the following two anecdotal observations.
#1 – I have 4 quince trees on my property, 3 pineapple quinces (14 years old) and 1 Ukrainian quince (17 years old). The 3 pineapple quince trees have been heavy annual producers since about age 4. The Ukrainian quince bore 1 to 3 small thick-skinned, mal-formed fruits annually for a dozen years. I’d considered removing the tree many times, but it provided a little welcome shade during summer for beasties in the adjacent pasture so I let it stand. About 10 years ago my sister planted a row of her favorite apple varieties near the Ukrainian quince tree. She failed to research the ploidy of her faves, and after 5 years of practically no yield I did a bit of investigation and discovered that what she’d planted was a row of triploids. To remedy that, four years ago I planted a Yellow Delicious bare root at each end of the triploid row. As expected, triploid apple production increased significantly to the point where I now have to deal with another problem: limb breakage. Concurrently the Ukrainian quince kicked into high gear and produced moderate yields of large well-formed fruit the last two years. One of the Yellow Delicious trees is immediately adjacent to it. Is that Yellow Delicious cross pollinizing that Ukrainian quince? I don’t know. Perhaps some other variable I’m unaware of is at play. All I can say is that after 15 years of practically nothing that quince is finally putting out some fruit.
#2 – I’ve raised livestock for decades. I like bovines so I generally have a few for milk and beef. My current milk cow, Mandy, is a classic looking Jersey. I bought her at a few days old from one of the large Tillamook dairy farms. She’s a wonderful cow. To give milk she needs to give birth to a calf. I no longer need huge amounts of beef, so when it came time to breed her for the first time I decided to go with a small-sized Irish breed known as a Dexter. Dexter bulls typically fall in the 38-44 inch tall range and a 2-year-old Dexter steer typically dresses out to around 300 lbs. of beef. My Mandy has given birth to 3 babies sired by three DIFFERENT Dexter daddies. I was physically present at all three births. Baby #1 was a polled bull calf. At two years of age, he was taller and heavier built than his mother. He was a gorgeous brindle red with a switch-less tail (no fly swatter at the end). There was nothing physical to suggest he came from my Jersey milk cow. He dressed out at more than 600 lbs. of beef. Baby #2 was a heifer calf. She was born a solid deep red color and remained a solid deep red color into adulthood. She had a huge full-sized beefy body on short stubby legs. Even with her short stubby legs she was perhaps an inch shorter than her mother. She had a tail with the most gorgeous full switch I’ve ever seen on a cow. When outsiders looked at her they invariably said, “Wow, look at the beef on that one. I didn’t know you had Red Angus.” (She wasn’t, and I don’t.) In no shape, manner, or personality did she resemble her Jersey mother. Because of her heavy full-sized body on short stubby legs, she had back leg conformation issues. I also could never get her pregnant. She ended up in the freezer with a dressed out weight of 575 pounds. Calf #3 was born a medium red color. By six months of age she’d turned an ugly faded black and has maintained that color into adulthood. She has one of the ugliest heads I’ve ever seen on a cow. Her tail and switch is a typical bovine tail and switch. Unlike her two half-siblings, her personality is the most similar to that of her mother. Physically, she’s an ugly looking cow and bears no Jersey resemblance to my beautiful Mandy. On the plus side, I finally got my small-sized cow. She’s about 2/3 the size of her mother and I don’t expect her to grow any larger. She’s not beefy looking. She’s not really dairy looking. She’s simply ugly, but because of her small-framed stature, wonderful personality, and lack of conformation defects I will see if I can get a baby or two out of her. Perhaps the F2 generation will yield a better looking bovine. At least I hope so.
In conclusion, it’s nice to have morphological intermediate traits between the crossing of two breeds or intergeneric species, but you don’t always get that.
I’ve done a bit of digging (perhaps I’ll do a future article on my findings … depends on time availability) and it appears that the easiest naturally occurring pome hybrid cross is a pear x quince. The next easiest is an apple x quince. The most difficult is a pear x apple. The majority of these hybrid crosses die prematurely or end in sterile descendants. Some F1 fruit may result but getting beyond the F1 generation to F2 progeny generally requires molecular manipulation. I’ll toss out the following tidbits for pondering purposes:
Morphological and anatomical characteristics of an inter generic apple x pear hybrid.
Author(s) : RUDENKO, I. S.; ROTARU, G. I.
Author Affiliation : Kishinev, AN Mold. SSR.
Miscellaneous : Strukturi. osobennosti sochn. i myasnsi. plodov. 1970 pp.40-51
Abstract : An apple x pear hybrid, obtained in 1937, has intermediate morphological characteristics compared with its parents. The fruits are pear shaped. Seeds are rarely found but appear to be viable. Fruit yield is poor and the pollen is completely sterile.
Record Number : 19721603170
Language of text : Russian
Language of summary : French
Cydonia oblonga: The Unappreciated Quince
Author: Postman, Joseph
“Intergeneric crossing is fairly rare in plants, but has occurred naturally on occasion in the Rosaceas. While not as promiscuous as its cousins Sorbus and Mespilus, Cydonia has had a number of encounters with related genera that resulted in intergeneric offspring.”
Genotypic variation in apple x quince progenies
Author: I.S. Rudenko
“Burbank (1955) was the first creating apple × quince hybrids. They turned out to be sterile. Ryabov (1970) has also raised Malus × Cydonia hybrids. They were shrubbery with quince characters, weak and slowly growing.”
“Diploid forms of quince x apple hybrids were obtained from V. Panov in Bulgaria as basis for the programme. At Kishinev about 600 seeds from open and controlIed polIination were produced.”
Finally, I’ll state that neither pip tree is a high yielder nor produces fruit of remotely winning caliber. What I ended up with is the typical outcome of attempting to grow an apple tree from a pip (the moral of my editorial). In all likelihood both trees will be yanked and replaced with something more productive and better flavored.
Okay, this post was longer than intended, and I don’t know if you got clear down to here, but if you did, please feel free to make future comments. We do need critical readers.
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