Curator Joseph Postman and Geneticist Nahla Bassil pose with a ‘Patricke’ pear tree in the World Pear Collection conserved at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon. Postman and Bassil used DNA fingerprinting tools developed at the Repository to determine that a historic pear tree growing near Baton Rouge, Louisiana and known locally as the ‘Patricke Pear’ is genetically identical to another pear variety from the southern U.S. called ‘Leona’. According to legend, the Leona pear originated in Converse, Louisiana in 1930 when an unlabeled mail-order tree arrived at the post office. The tree was planted by the postmaster who named it after his wife.
Postman and Bassil recently used the same DNA fingerprinting tools to trace the pedigrees for a series of disease-resistant pear rootstocks presumably derived from a cross of ‘Old Home’ x ‘Farmingdale’ and known as numbered OHxF selections. The genetic profiles confirmed that ‘Old Home’ was the seed parent, but it turns out that ‘Bartlett’ and not ‘Farmingdale’ was the pollen parent.
In addition to managing the living collection of more than 2000 different pear trees from around the world, Postman also curates collections of more than 800 different hazelnut and 150 different quince varieties.