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October 1, 2013

This oldest of pear trees bears fruit

DANVERS — After failing to producing a single pear last year, the Endecott pear tree, the oldest living cultivated fruit tree in the United States, bore a bumper crop this fall.

Yesterday, arborists Richard Grant and Pamela Trentini and employees from the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care plucked fruit from limbs or picked ripe pears off the ground.

At more than 380 years old, the tree is considered a living link to the first governor of Massachusetts and some of the area’s earliest European settlers.

“I am a horticulturalist and an arborist, so I certainly enjoy the organic, live freshness of having fruit still coming from this old tree,” said Trentini, who works with Grant for Mayer Tree Service of Essex.

The first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Endecott, is said to have planted it personally in the early 1630s. It’s the last tree from Endecott’s large orchard of apple and pear trees, says town archivist Richard Trask. It mostly likely came over from England as a shoot before being planted in Danvers.

“It has a good history to it. From the time of the Colonial era, they were talking about it, which was unique,” Trask said.

It has been mentioned by President John Adams and by poets John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The tree, now about 20 feet tall, has survived hurricanes, vandalism (all of its limbs were cut off in 1964, but they grew back) and the taking of soil from the land, Trask said.

Danvers Historical Society President Wayne Eisenhauer described the pears from the tree as “small and “hard as a rock.”

“They used them for preserves and things,” Eisenhauer said. “I don’t know what they tasted like 300 years ago.”

The property, along with the historic tree, was acquired from Osram Sylvania by Mass General before the health care facility broke ground in 2007.

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