Sunday, November 22, 2015

It Smells Like What?

Callery Pear Leaf in November Drawing

The Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana, in the family Rosaceae is a beautiful little deciduous tree that is one of a species of pear trees native to China and Vietnam.  They were named after Joseph-Marie Callery, a missionary, who sent specimens of the tree to Europe from China.  You can find them in all five boroughs.  The “Survivor Tree” that survived the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and that was replanted at Ground Zero by President Obama is a Callery Pear tree. Callery Pears bloom early in the spring and produce lovely five-petaled white flowers that people say have, well let’s just say, an earthy smell.  They only smell in the spring when the flowers emerge, unlike the ginkgos that smell in the fall when the fruit emerges.  Everyone knows that ginkgo fruit smells like vomit.  But not everyone knows that the Callery Pear flowers smell like semen.  So if you are walking down the street admiring the white flowers covering spring trees and reminding you that summer is coming, but then you find yourself wiggling your nose and saying, “Hey, what’s that funky, spunky smell,” well, now you know what it is.  New York City has lots of Callery pears, some 63,000.  And lots of birds are appreciative because they enjoy the berries. In the 2005 tree census, Callery pears were number three right after the London Plane and Norway Maple trees.  We’ll see what happens when the results are out for the 2015 tree census.  Some people think the numbers will go down even though the total number of trees is likely to go up.  Callery pears aren’t planted as much as they used to be and it’s nothing (or I think it is nothing) to do with the spring flower smell.  Some people find their flowers messy.  Others consider them invasive. Not only that but the trunks split easily as they age, and many are lost to storm damage.  But ooh la la, the fall colors of the Callery Pear are something else.  They are often deep, wine colored, which is the color I am trying to show in my drawing of one of the leaves I gathered in my neighborhood this week. 

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