Shipova (Bollwiller Pear)

(xSorbopyrus auricularis)

Dormant Shipova
Dormant Shipova shows spreading tree form and more vigorous growth below trunk damage

Cultivar tested

‘Shipova’

Description and site preference

Type and size – pyramidal tree, 15-20 feet
Hardiness zone – 3-9
Exposure – full sun
Soil – silt and sandy loams
Drainage – well-drained

Economic factors

Years to harvest – 7-15
Maintenance – low
Life of planting – 30+ years
Machine harvest potential – none
Suitable markets – fresh fruit, local sales

Shipova leaf clusters
In spring 2012, leaf clusters had blossom buds that later froze

Notable features

Nutritional highlights – unknown
Adaptability – limited
Pest issues – few, but have had serious fire blight issues
Invasive potential – none
Environmental benefits – late blooming, could help sustain pollinators

Integration characteristics

Shared management – intermediate, same as most fruit trees
Shared equipment – intermediate, can share pruning equipment
Shared processing – low, probably not economical to process
Co-marketing – low, specialized fresh market

Integration potential – low

Should be considered as a stand-alone specialty fruit for niche markets.

History and background

Shipova is an intergeneric hybrid – a rarely seen cross between two different genera.

The origin of this fruit is shrouded in mystery. It is known to be an intergeneric cross between Sorbus and Pyrus. It is thought to be a cross between the specific species Pyrus communis, the common European pear, and Sorbus aria, the whitebeam. Shipova is also known by a number of other scientific names.

Shipova fruit is about two inches in diameter and somewhat flattened, like an Asian pear. It is self-fertile but generally produces larger crops when planted beside pear trees that bloom at the same time. Shipova may also cross pollinate with mountain ash trees. Hardy in Zones 3-9, Shipova can reach 15-20 feet high and has a pyramidal and open growth habit requiring little or no pruning. It is notoriously slow to start fruiting, taking up to 15 years if growing conditions are not favorable. (Grower’s note: Reproduction/fruiting can often be sped up by subjecting the tree to controlled stress such as scoring the trunk or grafting onto a more dwarfing root stock. Uncontrolled stress from insect and disease damage can also “shock” a fruit tree into earlier bloom. It’s natures way of guaranteeing survival of the species.)

The flesh of shipova is semi-solid, buttery, sweet and fragrant. There is little information about nutritional and nutraceutical characteristics of this fruit, but for fresh eating, it is said to be unsurpassed.

Observations at Carandale Farm

  • Carandale ordered five shipova trees from Northwoods Nursery (see One Green World) in 2003. One tree died from what appeared to be fire blight one year after transplanting.
  • The remaining trees adapted well for 3 years.
  • In year 4, one tree showed symptoms of fire blight and died in the winter.
  • The remaining 3 trees started showing some signs of stress with varying symptoms.
  • In year 7 (2010) one more tree died, but the remaining two trees set a few fruit.
  • In 2011 no fruit buds appeared on either of the remaining trees.
  • In 2012, one tree had a significant number of fruit buds, but they became the victim of April freezes following the unprecedented warm weather in March.
  • The second of the remaining trees died during the summer of 2012.
  • Carandale awaits to see if their remaining tree survives and produces fruit.

Discussion

Relatively few shipova trees have been grown throughout the world, even though the plant has been around for more than 400 years and bears delicious fresh fruit. This may be indicative of its need for specific site conditions and/or the long time before fruiting. Both situations would make it questionable as an economically successful fruit crop.

Shipova is supposed to be a carefree tree, but it has not done well at Carandale. The death of one tree from what appeared to be fire blight so soon after transplanting suggests that they may have been exposed to the pathogen very early on, perhaps even in the nursery. The rootstock was not identified, but suckering indicated they had been grafted on a Sorbus rootstock, which can be susceptible to the fire blight pathogen.

This is an interesting fruit and its potential for fresh market sales sets it apart from many of the unusual fruit species in the test plot. Under the right conditions, shipova could be a profitable niche crop for local retail sales, but it is unlikely to be a profitable component of an integrated production system.

Referneces

Wikipedia entry on shipova
Dave’s Garden information on shipova
Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, by Lee Reich.

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