|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 386 January 10, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
Vernon (Bert) Brink was born in Calgary, Alberta, and spent his early years on his parents' livestock enterprises in British Columbia. He earned a BSA in Agronomy from University of British Columbia in 1934 and an MSc in 1936. Graduate work at the University of Wisconsin led to the award of a PhD in 1940. During his graduate training he gained practical experience at the Canada Department of Agriculture Station at Manyberries in Alberta, where he was faced with the problems of grasshoppers and over-grazing which were principal causes of "dustbowl" conditions. Further experience was gained at the Canada Department of Agriculture Range Station in Kamloops.
During World War II Dr Brink served in the Officers Training Corp as an instructor with the Mountain Infantry. During a climb he sustained an injury to his pelvis and hip which continued to affect him throughout his later life.
He joined the Department of Agronomy at UBC as an assistant in 1939, and in 1946 was promoted to Associate Professor. In 1955 he was promoted to Professor, and became Chair (1955-1967) of the newly formed Division of Plant Science. In 1970, Dr V C Runeckles became Chair, and Dr Brink continued to teach and conduct research in the newly formed Department of Plant Science. Many students have commented on his inspiring lectures and on his influence on their choice of careers. He retired in 1977 with the title of Professor Emeritus but continued his active academic career. In recognition of his many achievements he received the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia and a fellowship from the Agricultural Institute of Canada.
Dr Brink was active in many organizations related to Agronomy and Plant Science and achieved distinction in research and extension. These organizations included: the Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC), the Canadian Seed Growers' Association, the British Columbia Institute of Agrologists (BCIA), the Canadian Society of Agronomy, the American Society of Agronomy, the Genetics Society of Canada (he was a member of the founding executive and President), and he was a founding member of the American Society of Range Management. He was a member of several committees to develop the professional Agrologists legislation and the professional Biologists legislation. In addition he was a member of the Canada and BC and Regional parks committees, the BC Forestry Research Committee, the Western Turfgrass association, the Habitat Conservation trust Fund (vice-chair since its inception), and the Nature Trust of BC (director from its inception). In 1969, he chaired the BC Indian Agriculture and Lands Committee, which was a joint effort of the BCIA and AIC. This association led to the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences having strong links with these agencies. He was a member of the Founding Committee of the Van Dusen Botanical Garden and later was elected an Honourary member.
His research interests encompassed a number of areas, including Knapweed control and on gibberellin, an alfalfa growth regulator. He also was involved in various genetic experiments on Rhizoma alfalfa and continued to develop his interest in the study of barley. Other interests included the care and improvement of turfgrass, climatic effects on crops, crop genetics, effective use of rangeland and the ecological use of land. In addition he promoted the development of the University Research Farm at Oyster River as a teaching and research facility. Throughout his career he contributed over 200 papers to Crop Science, Ecology, The Journal of Plant Science, the Canadian Field Naturalist and similar journals and magazines. His publications include articles on historical aspects of plant breeding (e.g. in the BC Historical Review), some BC native wildlife publications and many natural history articles.
He served on the Environmental Assessment Panel that studied the potential impact of reactivating the Boundary Bay Airport and then the addition of a third runway at Vancouver International Airport. He was President of the Vancouver Natural History Society from 1950 to 1952 and in 1963 he founded the Conservation Committee. Dr Brink played a major role in the founding of the Federation of BC Naturalists in 1969. In 1984, he became a member of the Board of Directors of The Nature Trust, a non-profit organization established to conserve areas of ecological significance in the province. His contribution to conservation was recognized by the award of the Douglas H. Pimlott Conservation Award by the Canadian Nature Federation in 1982. In spite of the injury noted above he continued climbing and was elected an Honourary Member of the Alpine Club of Canada.
Dr Brink was also active in many UBC committees. They included: the Sub-Committee to study the organization of Soil Science in 1953, the Genetics Committee, the Committee on Sports Turf Research, the Climatological Committee, the President's Committee for the Electron Microscope (installed in 1959), the president's Committee on the Botanical Gardens and the Advisory Committee on Botanical Garden Policy. Consulting work included five overseas assignments on behalf of CIDA and one assignment with the same agency in Canada in which Dr Brink escorted Kenyan agricultural research personnel to agricultural colleges and veterinary colleges across Canada.
Dr Brink's achievments and distinction were recognized by his alma mater, which conferred on him the honorary degree of DSc in 1994.
Vernon Brink was a first-class academic with dozens of published scholarly articles. His interests were broad, and he was professionally consulted in the fields of plant science, geology and habitat conservation. He was particularly beloved as a former teacher and supervisor of many Masters and PhD students. These students now hold positions of influence in the scientific, agricultural and governmental communities. His greatest achievement, however, was his continuing effort to combine a love of science with a deep respect for the natural world. As an academic, he worked with many agricultural and recreational organizations, seeking ways to responsibly use our living resources. He acknowledged and supported the economic role of renewable resources, but kept in mind our society's equally important needs for recreation, beauty and preservation of wildlife habitat. As an expert on the integrated use of natural resources, he had the rare distinction of being held in high regard by both business and environmental organizations.
The Greek poet Homer (8th century BC) called pears the "gift of the gods." Traditional pears have been grown in Canada since the days of the early settlers, but some new kinds of edible and ornamental pears are attracting attention. The following information was largely gathered while preparing a treatment of wild pears for the Flora of North America as well as an informative poster. It provides some useful background for information on the wild species and answers a number of recent questions.
Many people know the difference between a pear and an apple fruit, or think they do. Not all pears are pear-shaped. Asian Pears (see below), often called "Apple Pears," usually look more like apples than pears, and indeed are hard, crisp and juicy like apples. The most reliable distinguishing feature is the gritty texture of pear fruit, the result of "stone cells" in the flesh (but most new cultivars have a minimal amount of grit). In addition the flower pedicels are attached to an elongated axis, whereas in apples all of the flower pedicels are attached at the same point.
Pears originated in Asia, and are believed to have been cultivated for thousands of years. Although three species are cultivated in Canada, there are no native North American species. The "Common Pear," Pyrus communis, was introduced during the very early stages of settlement. The first trees were planted as crops in the early 1700s in the eastern Canadian wilderness. These early pears came from France and are now called "Jesuit Pears" or "Mission Pears" because they were planted by Jesuit priests in orchards at the missions and forts in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, along the St. Lawrence River, the Niagara River and particularly along the Detroit River.
The Common Pear can grow very old. The Endicott Pear Tree in Danversport, Massachusetts is the oldest living fruit tree in North America. It was planted by the first governor of Massachusetts, John Endicott, around 1630. This tree is now approximately 380 years old and is still producing fruit. One of the oldest Mission Pears was still standing on the site of the palisaded fortress of Detroit a few years prior to 1921; it was known to have been planted in 1705, making it 216 years old at that time. Mission Pears have grown to 24 m (80 ft.) in height and 2.5-3 m (8–10 ft.) in circumference, and have yielded 40–50 bushels of fruit from a single tree. After the initial settlement period, these early pears were replaced by orchards of newer named varieties.
By 1921 the Mission Pears were disappearing fast and some experts doubted that any remained. However, very old trees survive in Essex County to this day. One of these is the Iler Pear, which is growing on the Iler settlement established in the 18th century east of Colchester. The tree is estimated to be over 200 years old and is 20 m (66 ft.) tall and more than 5 m (16 ft.) in circumference. In 1996 only seven Mission Pears were known to be left in Canada. The old pears have resistance, tolerance, and vigour not possessed by current cultivars and are valuable sources of material for improvement of cultivated pears. The Agriculture Canada genebank in Harrow publicized the old Iler Pear tree with the result that 23 additional ancient pear trees were brought to light. Most of these are now protected and cuttings from the majority are part of the genebank collection. The genebank also grew seedlings and propagated numerous cuttings of the famous Iler Pear. These have also been added to the city of Windsor’s (Ontario) nursery stock and hundreds of people have planted them locally. As a result, valuable germplasm has been conserved and a cultural heritage has also been protected as a living reminder of the past.
Pears were originally brought to the west coast of North America by Spanish colonists, who arrived on ships that had circled Cape Horn. They established trees around the early Spanish missions. By the middle 19th century pears were also being brought by wagon from eastern North America. One of the most interesting Common Pears on the west coast is the Hager Grove Pear Tree in Salem, Oregon. It was planted in 1850 and is still alive. The seeds from which this tree was developed were transported from eastern North America across the Oregon Trail, a challenging journey in those days (Custer’s Last Stand was in 1876). The early west coast Common Pears were extensively planted and satisfied local markets until after World War II, when these easily bruised heritage varieties were gradually replaced by the larger Bartlett variety of Common Pear that can be shipped with little damage, and lasts longer on the shelf.
There are over 5,000 varieties of Common Pear, differing in taste, shape and colour. The common fruit cultivars grown in Canada at the present time and available from nurseries are Bartlett, Flemish Beauty, Anjou, and Bosc. Commercial growers once took pride in growing many different varieties but now they grow only a few. About 30 heirloom pear varieties originated in North America in the 19th century and many of these are now quite rare. Recognizing that the traits of rare varieties may prove important in creating new pear cultivars in the future, the U.S. National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon has preserved many of them in a large and very valuable living collection.
The Bartlett Pear, the most popular pear in North America, was discovered in Berkshire, England, in the 17th century, by schoolmaster John Stair, who sold cuttings to a horticulturist named Williams, who named it after himself. The Williams pear was brought by the early colonists to Dorchester, Massachusetts, where in 1812 nurseryman Enoch Bartlett renamed it after himself. Ever since, the pear has been known as the Bartlett pear in the United States and the Williams pear (or William Bon Chrétien) in England.
China grows over 50% of the world’s pears, while Canada produces less than 1%, and imports 4.5 times as many as are exported. Most imported pears come from the US, but increasingly from China which is now rivaling Argentina as the world’s top exporter. Canada’s commercial food pears are worth almost 9.5 million dollars in farm gate value and they are the 10th most valuable Canadian fruit and the 4th most valuable tree fruit. Ontario is by far the leader with 2/3 of the farm gate value and British Columbia follows. Pears are also grown in Quebec and Nova Scotia. In Ontario pears are presently cultivated as a crop in the southwestern parts of the province including the western Lake Ontario region, the north shore of Lake Erie and the southern Lake Huron region. They can be grown north of this region and are sold in nurseries for local gardens in Ottawa, but a lack of cold hardiness may periodically reduce fruit production north of the area of commercial production. The farm value of Ontario pears has been stable—near 5.5 million dollars since 1980.
Asian Pears (Pyrus pyrifolia, previously called P. serotina) have been cultivated for centuries in Asia. They are grown commercially on the west coast of the U.S. Because they are less cold hardy than most varieties of Common Pear, they have a much smaller area of cultivation in Canada—mainly southern British Columbia. They are often grown on rootstocks of other pear species (P. calleryana, P. betulifolia, P. communis) of which the last is the most cold hardy. Rootstocks of the related Quince (Cydonia oblonga) are widely used for pears in Europe and have had some success in the most climatically favourable areas of Canada. Demand for Asian pears in North America increased greatly during the 1980s due to the increasing population of Asian people in the U.S. and Canada. Vancouver is a particularly important part of the Canadian market. Asian Pears can be eaten right after harvest and are crisp and juicy like apples. In contrast, Common Pears are harvested while the fruit is hard, and they are served soft several days after removal from cold storage. The market for Asian Pears is now expanding beyond the Asian communities.
A few other species with pear-like fruits are cultivated in Canada. One is the intergeneric hybrid ×Sorbopyrus auricularis (= P. communis × Sorbus aria) which is believed to have originated in Europe before 1610. Often called the Bolwyller Pear, it has been propagated as a clone and grown occasionally in North America. The dry but tasty plum-like fruits, about 5 cm (2 inches) long and wide, ripen to a deep yellow with an orange-red blush. The seeds are shriveled and non-viable. Although rarely grown in Canada, it is hardy to USDA Climate Zone 5 (which includes extreme southwestern Ontario, parts of the Maritimes and parts of southern British Columbia). Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is similar to pear but has leaves with smooth (not toothed) margins, solitary flowers and the fruit is fuzzy. Quince is occasionally cultivated in Canada, mostly in southwestern British Columbia, and is hardy to USDA Climate Zone 4.
Not all pears are cultivated for table fruit: some varieties of Common Pear and the related Snow Pear (Pyrus nivalis) are cultivated for production of the alcoholic beverage Perry, mostly in Europe. Perry is made by fermenting pear juice using a process similar to the production of cider, and it has a similar alcoholic content of around 8%. Perry is more difficult to make than cider, but is more delicately flavoured. It has been popular for centuries in Britain and France. The fruits of pear varieties used to make Perry are smaller, more acidic, and less palatable, but result in a superior beverage to that produced from table fruit varieties. Currently the most popular light Perry is Lambrini, manufactured in Liverpool and marketed under the slogan "Lambrini Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
Although Pyrus communis is cultivated as an ornamental, the most popular garden and landscaping pear in Canada is P. calleryana, the Callery Pear, which is grown in Ontario and southern British Columbia. The most planted cultivars are Red Spire, Chanticleer, Capital and Bradford. In Ontario, they are sold south of Kingston since this species is less cold hardy than P. communis but some varieties are cold hardy in Ottawa. The cultivars vary in shape and colour of autumn foliage (some scarlet red), but all have flowers with two or three styles, instead of five as in P. communis, and they have small, globose fruits whereas those of P. communis are typically larger and pear-shaped. Further south in the U.S., other species of pears cultivated as ornamentals include P. betulifolia, P. faurieri and the more or less evergreen (except when exposed to substantial freeze) P. kawakamii (which is sometimes treated as a synonym of P. calleryana), but these are less frequent than P. calleryana.
Among the many questions people ask about pear trees are "why are the leaves dying?" Both cultivated and ornamental pears are subject to Fire Blight, a bacterial disease caused by Erwinia amylovora. Shoot tips die in spring and black leaves cling to the curled dead shoot as if burned by fire. Many commercial cultivars are highly susceptible to this disease, which can cause significant loss of tree limbs and even tree death, but some varieties have a degree of resistance to this pathogen. A very exciting recent advance in pear breeding is the development of a delicious variety that is highly tolerant of the blight, is late maturing, and stores well. The cross which produced this variety was made at Agriculture Canada=s Harrow Research Station in Ontario by Dr. Harvey Quamme and is now being further tested and introduced by Dr. David Hunter at the Vineland Research Station. Pears seedlings often take seven to 10 years to produce fruit and considerable experimentation is involved, so that a team of scientists typically works over a quarter of a century to develop a new variety.
Pears are interesting research subjects and it appears that much has still to be learned about them. A recent scientific article describes a very interesting discovery about the flowers of Common Pear. The five stigmas within a flower are sequentially receptive to pollen, over a period of as much as 4 days. This extends the time of stigma receptivity, compensating for the often unreliable pollination conditions. Pollen is also produced sequentially with the outer rank of stamens releasing it up to 3 days before the inner rank.
Pears are spectacular ornamentals due to dense masses of flowers in the spring and scarlet foliage in the autumn. The increasing attractiveness of fresh fruit to maintain health also contributes to a growing popularity of pears. The warming climate in Canada is expected to increase the area where pears can be grown. World production is expected to increase. All things considered, it seems likely that pears will become more important.
For more information on pears, see the references below and the published international symposia on pears (most recent in Acta Horticulturae 596). To see the kinds of pears in Canada’s clonal genebank go to http://www.agr.gc.ca/pear/pdf/pear-poire_e.pdf.
Thanks to David Hunter for his helpful comments.
To begin, I must say that the authors faced an unenviable task. In British Columbia, Garry oak stands have been heavily altered by fragmentation, grazing, invasion of non-native plant species, and lately by the efforts of some restoration botanists who are attempting to alter Garry oak stands to conform to their image of how Garry oak vegetation should look. This makes any traditional plant community classification difficult, if not impossible. Most of the Garry oak plant communities on Vancouver Island have been vastly reduced and are now represented by small groups of trees that host fragments of original "Garry Oak vegetation".
This publication is based on Wayne Erickson’s M.Sc. thesis done at the University of Victoria (Erickson 1996). Whereas the original work contains a one-level classification where the classification units are based on individual species with high cover values, in this recent work, the authors recognized seven main "Garry Oak Plant Associations":
This is a great improvement on the four Quercus garryana plant communities officially acknowledged by the British Columbia government.
I was especially pleased to see that authors recognized Quercus garryana-Holodiscus discolor-Symphoricarpos albus plant association that is similar to Quercus garryana/Symphoricarpos albus/Carex inopsdescribed from the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, Washington (Chappell 2006). Whereas this vegetation type is considered rare in Washington, in British Columbia Symphoricarpus albus has been, until this work, considered invasive and not a species that would belong in Quercus garryana forests.
The authors recognized seven plant associations that could be subdivided into 17 "Native community types" and 6 "Native subcommunities". The definition of "Native community types" and "Native subcommunities" is rather vague, but one can find some answers by reading the vegetation tables and going through the "Synopsis of the Key to Garry Oak Plant Associations" that comprises the main body of this report (page 6 through 46).
The classification is rather confused by the adoption of several separate classifications, the so-called "Early season classification" (April 1 - or April 21- to May 15) and "Late season classification" (after May 15). I think that the recognition of the so-called "Phenological plant community types" is a mistake; the best way to deal with them is to ignore them. If it had been done by the authors, Appendix 1 (Vegetation keys ...) would be shorter, clearer and easier to understand.
It is also unfortunate that the authors did not explain their sampling design and how they created the resulting tables. The methodology section is missing. In the vegetation tables, the number of plots varies from 3 to 14. The exception is the Garry oak – Great camas phenological community that is represented in the table by 50 plots.
The authors use common names (e.g., "Alaska oniongrass") or folk names (e.g., "Electrified cat’s-tail moss") throughout the text. Although the authors give the scientific names for almost all species mentioned in the report, the report is difficult to read by botanists not familiar with the peculiar British Columbia common names of plants.
In the species lists, the authors missed Symphoricarpos hesperius and most probably treated it as Symphoricarpos albus. I suspect that Perideridia gairdneri has been misidentified in this report as Lomatium triternatum. Roemer’s fescue is treated once as Festuca roemeri and another time as Festuca idahoensis.
If you can ignore the idiosyncrasies of the report such as the recognition of phenological communities, the report fills some large gaps in our knowledge of Quercus garryana plant communities in British Columbia, and for that the authors are to be commended.
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