There have been rumours and whispers; questions and guesses. Everybody wants to know: where have all the pears gone?
In the dead of night, in the heat of the summer, the Pear Gremlin sneaks into yards across Toronto, greedily and indiscriminately stealing pears for his insatiable appetite. While scaling the tree’s limbs, the Pear Gremlin’s grotesque body oozes orange-brown slime from countless sores and fissures, which then plop-plop-plops onto the leaves below, leaving hideous marks.
Although this is the story I’ve told to the kids in my neighbourhood, it’s a bit of a truth-stretcher. The Pear Gremlin is actually a fungal infection commonly known as pear rust (or for the Latin-loving among you, Gymnosporangium sabinae). Pear trees infected by the rust — marked by brown or orange spots on the leaves, and will drastically cut back on their fruit production.
Last year, we picked more than 10,200 pounds of pears, but this year we have only picked 25 pounds. This fungus, whose spores are easily dispersed through the air, has infected all of our registered pear trees.
Pear rust not only affects pear trees, but junipers too, which act as winter hosts for the fungus. The best advice to pear tree owners: make sure you collect and completely remove the leaves from your tree once they’ve fallen this autumn. And you might want to find those neighbours with junipers and figure out a strategy to prevent the fungus from hunkering down for a winter’s sleep. Otherwise, the Pear Gremlin may be coming back in 2012.
Much of our information was gleaned from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affair’s website. Check it out for further information.