The Romeo and Juliet of Pear Rootstocks

Fireblight, the scourge of pear production in the eastern United States, caused Professor F. C. Reimer of Oregon State University to "search the world over" to find resistant trees. He made plant collecting expeditions to China, Korea, Manchuria, and Japan. One of the most worthwhile trips, however, was within the United States to visit Mr. Benjamin Buckman of Farmingdale, Illinois in 1915. During this trip Professor Reimer found two blight-free trees.

"Old Home, thou art the sun."

Mr. Buckman obtained some scionwood of a seedling European pear (Pyrus communis L.) from Mr. B. O. Curtis of Paris, Illinois. Buckman planted the grafted tree near the Buckman family homestead. Professor Reimer collected scionwood from Buckman's tree and named the clone 'Old Home.' Subsequent testing showed that not only was 'Old Home' blight- resistant, but the frame developed strong wide-angled branches. This clone was an excellent compatibility bridge for quince, and was also resistant to pear decline. What a virtuous pear of rootstock potential!

F. C. Reimer, Professor Emeritus of Oregon State University in 1967 with the original 'Old Home' tree. Reimer was 86 years old; the tree 52.
Reprinted here with permission from the American Society for Horticultural Science

"Farmingdale, Farmingdale, wherefore art thou, Farmingdale?"

While walking around Buckman's farm Reimer noticed a second blight-free pear tree. This open pollinated seedling was growing near an 'Anjou' tree. Reimer collected some scionwood to take back with him. He later named the clone 'Farmingdale.' Mr. Buckman died in 1925 and his family orchard, homestead, and the original 'Old Home' and 'Farmingdale' trees were destroyed.

By that time Reimer had established trees of both 'Old Home' and 'Farmingdale' in his research collections in southern Oregon. He continued research and breeding with these trees and learned that crosses of 'Old Home' x 'Farmingdale' were also blight-resistant.

Joseph Postman, NCGR Plant Pathologist, standing where Reimer had stood under the original 'Old Home' tree above, but 23 years later. This tree is now gone from Medford, but it has been established at the Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.
Photograph by Kim Hummer

Beyond Romeo x Juliet

Many researchers became interested in the blight resistant crosses of 'Old Home' x 'Farmingdale.' The Agriculture Canada Rearch Station in Summerland, B. C., obtained a supply of seed. They sent this seed to a private nurseryman, Lyle A. Brooks, of Forest Grove, Oregon. Mr. Brooks and Drs. Melvin Westwood and Porter Lombard of Oregon State University evaluated more than 500 seedlings from this cross. In the late 1980's Mr. Brooks trademarked the name 'OHxF' Series (Brooks Sellections)®. U. S. plant patents for five of the rootstock clones are assigned to Carlton Plants, Inc., Dayton, Oregon. Propagation material for research can be obtained from USDA-ARS NCGR-Corvallis.

Prepared by K.E. Hummer, January 1997