New pear species: the story of a discovery

New pear species: the story of a discovery

The Turkmen land is fertile and rich. What gifts the Mother Nature does not treat the inhabitants of the sunny land with, including vegetables, fruits, berries, melons and gourds known throughout the world… Land cultivation, as a science and a branch of agriculture, has long been mastered by man. But it so happens that some “edible” finds, about which nothing was previously known, are discovered far from human habitats.

Alexander Pavlenko, a resident of Serdar city in the Balkan Region, is actively studying the flora of Turkmenistan. A field scientist and botanist, he often visits different protected areas of the country. Once, climbing to the top of the mountain, Alexander saw a strange plant at an altitude of 1580 meters above sea level.

– It was a completely incidental discovery. Local shepherds advised me to visit an interesting place – “Mezitli-baba”. The ascent of a mountain took two hours. I made a stop with my companions, Alexander says. – Then we decided to go a little further and saw a field not far from the top of the Hasar Mountain. It was summer time, the very beginning of June. There were small groves of various plants in the rocky area. I could not recognize the leaves of one plant until I was shown its fruits. These were real pears.

Turkmen gardeners grow many varieties of this fruit. However, only four species were found within Turkmenistan in the wild before the new discovery. These are the endemic Turkmen pear, Boissier pear, Regel pear and the common cultivated pear. To study the newly appeared pear species, Alexander took a herbarium and small fruits of the plant with him.

The botanist wrote an article about his find, which was published in several scientific printed sources. While conducting research, Alexander came to the conclusion that, according to a number of characteristics, the found fruit corresponds to the willow-leafed pear. Previously, no information has been recorded about such a plant in Turkmenistan.

– This find is extremely interesting for the flora of Turkmenistan, because we can say that the 5th species of pear that grows in the country was discovered. It is widespread in the Crimea, Turkey, Iran, the Caucasus and Azerbaijan, but this species of pear has never been found close to Turkmenistan before. The plant is thorny and used in the Crimea and Turkey to make hedges. For us, the economic value of the newly discovered pear is that it is stable to drought, low temperatures and other harsh weather conditions. Other varieties of pears can be grafted onto it, and it can be used as a rootstock, that is, an underground part, from which new above-ground growth will be produced.

Found on the Syunt-Hasardag ridge, not far from the ancient Mezitli-baba cemetery, a pear tree may indicate traces of ancient settlers who lived in these places. Earlier on Hasar, the highest point of Syunt-Hasardag, evidences of an ancient civilization were found such as ruins of dwellings, wells, sardoba (reservoirs), as well as the remains of abandoned gardens. It is likely that the people who inhabited this mountain range in ancient times were engaged in the cultivation of fruit plants.

– If you don’t take care of grafted plants for a long time, they eventually run wild, Alexander continues. – The rootstock suppresses the graft. As the researcher Viktor Maleev described, everything that is found in the Sumbar Valley – pears, pomegranates, apple trees, plums – has gone wild again. That is, once cultivated plants have undergone changes due to adversity associated with natural disasters and enemy raids on ancient settlements. People abandoned their plots and the plants become wild, and as a result, the second-formed species appeared.

In October 2019, Alexander’s colleagues climbed Syunt-Hasardag to see a pear tree, but they did not find any fruits on it. The severe frost made fruit formation difficult. Nevertheless, the fact remains – the willow-leafed pear grows in Turkmenistan.

photo: Alexander Pavlenko