Very old pear tree sucker

(Question)

Hello, I had an old pear tree in our back yard taken down last year because of carpenter ants rotting the trunk. The tree must have been there a long while because it towered over our three storey house. We had the tree guys grind out the stump a good 12 inches down but a year later I have three very nice suckers coming up from directly over the stump. What is the best plan if I want to keep one and hopefully regrow the tree? If it was old would the root stock be original? How long have we been grafting fruit trees?

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

There are several issues to consider in your case.

  1. The shoots coming up are from the root stock of your pear tree. Most fruit trees are grafted onto root stock. The tree that comes from the root stock will not be like your original tree. Letting it grow will not give you back the tree you lost. Pears have been grafted for many years ( grafting began in the 1700’s) and as we are fairly far north, for yours to survive our winters it is likely a graft.
  2. The next issue is that whatever ailed the pear tree with the ant attack will still be in the location so will affect a new tree. Once the old tree was under attack there is a good chance that fungi/bacteria set in as well.
  3. The sucker shoot growing up will never be able to grow in a structurally sound way. There will always be a weakness at the base of the trunk making it susceptible to winter and storm damage. It also would probably be an odd shaped tree that would potentially be more of an eye sore.

Your best bet is to plant a new tree. If you wish to have another fruit tree in the pear family ( Pears or apples) you would be best choosing a new location to avoid contamination from the old tree. If you choose a totally different tree you should be able to use the same area. If you cut off all the suckers when they show up the tree will eventually stop producing them and the roots will decompose and feed your soil.

I am attaching some information on pear trees in case you would like to read more.

Pear Tree Care: Growing And Planting Pears In The Home Garden