A small tree, sturdy in habit; young shoots thickly covered with a white wool. Leaves oval or obovate, 2 to 3 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. wide, entire, covered when young on both sides, but especially beneath, with a white wool much of which falls away later. Flowers pure white, 11⁄2 in. across, produced in April in conspicuous clusters. Fruit roundish, 11⁄2 in. or more wide, yellowish green, borne on a stalk as long or longer than itself.
Native of Central and S.E. Europe from Austria and Hungary to Rumania and Greece; introduced early in the 19th century. It is a very beautiful tree early in the season, owing to its pure white leaves and abundant flowers. There is an example at Kew measuring 39 × 41⁄2 ft (1970).
P. × canescens Spach – Probably a hybrid between P. nivalis and P. salicifolia. Its leaves are of the same size as those of P. nivalis, lanceolate or narrowly oval, finely round-toothed, very white when young, shining dark green when mature. Fruits pale green, much shorter stalked than in P. nivalis. There is an example in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden.
P. elaeagrifolia Pall. – A small, spiny tree closely allied to P. nivalis. Leaves more or less of the same shape, but covered on both sides with a whitish or greyish wool, and with smaller fruits. Native of the Crimea, Asia Minor, and S.E. Europe. In var. kotschyana (Boiss.) Boiss. the branches are not spiny and the leaves are lanceolate. Native of Asia Minor.
P. salvifolia DC. Poirier Sauger. – A close ally of P. nivalis, but with longer-stalked leaves broad-cuneate to rounded at the base. It was described by de Candolle from the Orleans neighbourhood, where, and in other places, it is grown to make perry. It occurs wild or naturalised in various parts of Europe and is considered by some authorities to be a hybrid between P. nivalis and the common pear.