pear trees under attack

Asked September 16, 2016, 11:15 AM EDT

We just moved to Philomath and are working on our pear trees. The trees in the photo did not fruit this year (for the others this was apparently their first year bearing fruit). Another plant is sprouting at the base of these trees and inundating them. The first photo shows the growth form (you can see the pear tree surrounded by the other stems). The second photo is close-up of the leaf of the "invader". At first I thought it was the same tree, but now I'm not sure. What is the "invader" and what is the best way to deal with this? thanks! scott

Benton County Oregon

2 Responses

I live just North of Philomath and have a small orchard of semi-dwarf trees, like yours. Your tree is not being attacked by a plant alien, it’s roots are trying to out compete it. In our area most pear trees are grafted to a Quince tree (root stock). If you are not familiar with the quince, it looks like a very ugly pear and has a very tart taste. The Quince root stock makes for a pear tree that is shorter and easier to harvest. It also produces a tree that gets fruit sooner after planting. What you are seeing around your pear tree are ‘suckers’ from your root stock (the quince). The suckers will use the sap and energy from the root system, reducing the growth of the tree and production of fruit. Whenever you see ‘suckers’ developing you should tear them off at their base. If the suckers are too large, like the ones on your trees, you should prune them off immediately. I have to remove suckers from my apple, pear, cherry, crab apple, and Asian pear trees every couple of months. I try to get the suckers early by ‘touring’ my trees at least every three or four days. I just went out to see if I had a tree that I missed and I did. Below is a before and after of an eatable crabapple that we use the fruit to make delicious jelly. Note the before and after photo. You should prune the suckers as close to their base as possible. In addition to depleting the flow of energy to the tree and fruit, suckers are more susceptible to introducing plant diseases directly into your tree, another reason to keep your trees sucker free. While pruning the suckers be careful and don’t damage the tree bark. Thanks for sending in your question to “Ask an Expert”.

Thanks! Very helpful. We've already started to counterattack our suckers!