Snow PearThe Pyrus nivalis tree is an ornamental deciduous tree in the Rosaceae family. It is noted for its elliptic, silvery-green leaves with white, velvety undersides. In spring, a profusion of five-petaled, creamy white flowers is draped in clusters along the branches. The fruit is small, green to pale yellowish.
It is a slow grower in the wild but is fast when cultivated. The bark is brown with large lenticels and young branches have a reddish hue that darkens with age. Wood from this tree is very hard and has been used in making tool handles. In autumn, its leaves turn yellow or dull red before falling.
This tree is native to the high mountains of Central Asia, where it can be found growing at elevations as high as 3500 meters. The traditional range extended from southern Turkestan through Kashmir and Afghanistan towards northern India, but it does not occur naturally in western China or the Himalayas. It has been introduced into cultivation in other parts of the world, where it is often used as an ornamental tree in parks and large gardens.
The Pyrus nivalis is a small, slow-growing mountain tree with a conical crown and an irregular branch structure. It tends to be somewhat less symmetrical than other pear trees and reach heights up to 15 meters (49 feet). Young branches are reddish, finely downy, and later dark brown; bark of older trunks is light brown with deep fissures. Buds are bright red, as is the wood.
Pyrus nivalis leaves are alternate and elliptic to ovate; they change color in fall and turn shades of yellow before dropping. Leaf stalks and undersides of leaves are downy and white. Leaves have finely toothed margins, with shallow rounded teeth. Margins are often coarsely double serrated or doubly crenate, and the leaf surface is shiny on top but covered in dense white hairs on the underside.
Flowers bloom before leaves emerge in early spring; they are small pinkish-white and borne in clusters of five on the tips of branches. They develop into greenish-white fruits about 2 cm in diameter, which later turns pale yellow or whitish and may remain on the tree until winter.