A famous pear tree in the heart of Dublin City has been found to be more than 170 years old following DNA testing.
The tree, which is believed to be one of the oldest fruit-bearing trees in Ireland, is located on the grounds of Dublin's Digital Hub campus in the Liberties and grows next to an old windmill known as St. Patrick's Tower that was part of the George Roe & Co Whiskey Distillery.
The tree is visible in an 1892 sketch of the distillery, but DNA testing has now proven that the tree is around 50 years older than the sketch.
The Digital Hub is home to Ireland’s oldest fruit-bearing tree. The tree in question, a pear tree of the Pyrus Communis variety, is estimated to be 150 to 200 years old according to a 2009 survey by the Tree Council of Ireland. https://t.co/KRebslPKIJ pic.twitter.com/cM8nRarjbp— The Digital Hub (@TheDigitalHub) September 25, 2023
DNA samples were taken from the tree in the summer of 2022 and sent to the Irish Seed Savers Association, which sent the samples to a lab in the UK for DNA extraction to provide certainty as to the age of the tree.
All DNA analysis indicates that the tree dates back to the early to mid-1800s. The DNA analysis additionally found that the tree is "Marechal de Cour," a popular variety of pear trees found in Victoria-era Britain.
National College of Art and Design lecturer Gareth Kennedy, who uses the tree as part of his coursework, told the Irish Times that the DNA testing has proved "without a shadow of a doubt" that the tree was brought to Ireland between 1847 and 1850.
Kennedy added that the tree is part of local legend, with some locals claiming that it was planted in 1805 when St. Patrick's Tower (originally built in 1757) was rebuilt. However, DNA testing has proved that the tree is not as old as the legend states.
"But that is not to disenchant the tree," Kennedy told the Irish Times.
"It has survived the industrial revolution, it has survived post-industrial Dublin, it has survived 1980s Dublin, 1990s, the Celtic Tiger and it’s still here giving us fruit every year.
"It is more than 170 years old which is a rather fine age."
The Digital Hub held a community harvest of the pear tree in the fall of 2022. The National College of Art & Design (NCAD), the Liberties Training Centre, and the South Inner City Community Development Association (SICCDA) all spoke about the importance of the tree at the event, while students, lecturers, and community members gathered to tase a variety of pear jams and pear tarts made using fruit from the tree.