I have two dwarf pear trees about 3 years old and they have what looks like thorns on them. They are Bartlett and Kieffer. They have never died back and come up from the roots. Is this normal?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Joyce: These pear varieties, like other fruit trees, are grafted onto seedling rootstock of another pear that has more desirable characteristics in terms of disease resistance, hardiness, and in some cases dwarfing attributes. Grafting is a propagation method used by nurserymen to create more desirable plants for the home gardener as well as commercial growers. Are your pear trees single-trunked or were they once single-trunked and now are multi-trunked? If this is the case, then it sounds like your pear trees are growing from the rootstock and possibly the graft did not take. This means you are growing a pear that probably does have thorns and not very tasty fruit. If there are any branches that do not have thorns, you can prune back all of the other growth and treat this like the new leader. At this stage you would essentially be starting over, and it is a bit strange that both the Bartlett and the Kieffer are doing the same thing, but certainly possible if they were not grafted properly. This is why purchasing plant material from a reputable grower is essential for the long-term health of our plants. Without seeing your trees it is difficult to say for sure if this is what is going on, but you are welcome to send pictures to email@example.com.