Bloom Alert! The Wild White Confetti of the Evergreen Pear Tree

Photos by Ryan Benoit

Mesmerizing on so many levels, evergreen pear trees are in full flower in many parts of California and Arizona right now. You’ll recognize them by their cotton-ball canopies, dreamy cluster upon dreamy cluster of white flowers that bloom for just a few weeks in late January and early February.

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The evergreen pear, Pyrus kawakamii, blooms in mid- to late-winter. In other words: Springtime, we’re coming for you!

Evergreen pear trees - Pyrus kawakamii

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Seen here at Balboa Park, the trees serve as stand-ins for snow.

Blink and you’ll miss them. (So please don’t miss them.) The bees definitely aren’t; our buzzing benefactors are going to town on the Pyrus kawakamii trees that we’ve been ogling all over our neighborhood in La Jolla and in Balboa Park, where they have straight iced out la Plaza de Panama. Native to Taiwan and China, this ornamental pear is also a treasured street tree in Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. And in Long Beach, you can find these trees at the Earl B. Miller Japanese Garden.

Even in our mild climes it’s hard not to get excited about an early bloomer. The common name, evergreen pear, is a bit of a misnomer; in fact it’s semideciduous and will briefly lose its leaves in the coldest winters of its range. (Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24; USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10.) While the bronze fruit it produces is small and inedible, the P. kawakamii expresses a tolerance for a variety soil types, including heavy clay. Just beware of fireblight and fungal leaf spots.

Evergreen pear trees, Pyrus kawakamii

Flowers are like catnip (beenip?) to bees, and are about the width of a quarter.

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The intensely furrowed bark stands out against the cottony canopy.

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The tree can grow up to 30 feet tall on single or multiple trunks that will hypnotize you with their soulfully furrowed bark. Leaves are elliptic to ovate, glossy and bisected by lovely pink midribs. Flowers are fragrant and let loose a wild confetti of petals in a light breeze — about as close as we get to snow around here. P. kawakamii is also an excellent tree to espalier, the possibilities of which could very well make us lose our minds.

Below you will find some more of the Pyrus experience — one moment you’re wandering under a tree and the next you’re getting lost in the clouds. —TH

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Missing the forest for the trees (just a little bit) at Balboa Park, San Diego, CA.

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The trees shake loose a wild white confetti of petals.

The trees shake loose a wild white confetti of petals.

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A river of petals.

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Evergreen pear tree, Pyrus kawakamii, California

Cloudy tree, cloudy skies in Windansea, La Jolla.

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Also in our neighborhood, a chandelier kicks the blossoms up a notch.

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  • Phyre Chris

    These trees smell so bad in San Marcos, California

    • Oh no!

    • Amelia Monchat

      The ones that smell bad are the Pyrus calleryana (Bradford pear), not the Pyrus kawakamii (Evergreen pear).