The name of this species is sometimes spelt with an r instead of an n - viz Pyrus elaeagrifolia. According to this idea, this name was likely intentionally based on the Greek 'elaeagros' meaning wild olive tree, and not 'elaeagnos', and thus the original spelling is not a correctible orthographic error[GEIN].
The specific epithet is often, if not usually, misspelled as ‘elaeagrifolia’; it is strange, when the foliage so obviously resembles that of an Elaeagnus, that this mistake should have become so entrenched in the literature and on labels[
In spite of their wide geographic distribution, the various species in the genus Pyrus are intercrossable without major incompatibility barriers. Also, the high morphological diversity and the lack of distinguishing characters among the species have been reported. Therefore, the classification of species in this genus is problematic and often confusing, giving different populations designated as different species by some authors. It is likely that, when the genus is reviewed, there will be several changes to the nomenclature[
Pyrus elaeagnifolia is a deciduous tree, often spiny, that can grow 10 - 15 metres tall, though sometimes is smaller and more shrub-like. The bole can be 50cm in diameter[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food. It is much used as a drought-resistant rootstock in semi-arid regions and can also be used as an ornamental.
Although no specific information has been seen for this plant, the seed of many species in the family Rosaceae are likely to contain cyanogenic glycosides. When injested, these compounds break down in the digestive tract to release cyanide. Used in small quantities in both traditional and conventional medicine, this exceedingly poisonous compound has been shown to stimulate respiration, improve digestion, and promote a sense of well-being[
]. It is also claimed by some to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer - though this claim has been largely refuted.
In larger concentrations, however, cyanide can cause gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma and respiratory failure leading to death[
The levels of toxin can be detected by the level of bitterness:- sweet almonds, for example, contain only very low levels of it and are safe to eat in quantity, whilst bitter almonds (which are used as a flavouring in foods such as marzipan) contain much higher levels and should only be eaten in very small quantities. Great caution should be employed if the taste is moderately to very bitter[
Eastern Europe - Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece; W. Asia - Turkey
Deciduous and coniferous forests, forest remnants etc; at elevations from sea level to 1,700 metres in Turkey[
]. Dry stony slopes, shrub thickets, pine forests, forest -steppe, also high mountain slopes; at elevations to 1,100 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Pyrus elaeagnifolia is a very cold-tolerant plant when dormant, able to withstand temperatures falling to between -20 and 30°c[
Prefers a good well-drained loam in full sun[
]. Grows well on dry and stony soils, once established the plants are strongly drought tolerant[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates light shade but does not fruit so well in such a position. Tolerates atmospheric pollution, excessive moisture and a range of soil types if they are moderately fertile[
This is a most valuable species for forestry and horticulture, since it can be cultivated in the steppe zone. Its importance for dry district horticulture is mainly as a drought-resistant rootstock suited to poor soils, and as such it is widely cultivated in eastern Crimea[
The plant can be grown as an ornamental[
This species is closely related to Pyrus nivalis[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. The flesh is rather tough and gritty, but has a reasonable flavour when it is fully ripe[
]. It is eaten after being stored or dried[
]. The fruits are of varying shape, from pyriform to flattened- globose, they are yellow-green in colour, sometimes reddening, up to 30mm in diameter[
Because of its high resistance to frost, drought, soil conditions etc, Pyrus elaeagnifolia can be used in landscape management for recultivation and reforestation in arid regions[
The plant can be used as a drought-resistant rootstock suited to poor soils[
Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn, it will then usually germinate in mid to late winter. Stored seed requires 8 - 10 weeks cold stratification at 1°c and should be sown as early in the year as possible[
]. Temperatures over 15 - 20°c induce a secondary dormancy in the seed[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse for their first year. Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.