The Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana) is not now and never will be my favorite tree. When in bloom at this time of year, as the ones in my yard currently are, it’s a beautiful tree. Unfortunately, along with the blooms comes an odor reminiscent of rotting fish. Around here the smell doesn’t really last that long — gusty winds or a stray downpour will quite frequently destroy the blooms and create a mat of white petals beneath the trees — but while it lasts it is quite pungent.
You may ask why anyone would want to plant a tree that smells like dead fish while blooming. And that’s a very good question! Bradford Pears were the “in” tree in this part of the country, and probably many other regions as well, for a number of years. When new housing developments were built some of the first trees the builders plunked into the ground were Bradford Pears. When old trees died in an established landscape Bradford Pears were often brought in to replace them. Why? Well, there are some positives about planting these trees:
- Bradford Pears produce beautiful white blooms in the spring and their leaves offer wonderful orange, red and purple autumn colors.
- At 25-30 feet tall, with a canopy of 20-25 feet, they’re a medium-sized tree that can fit in many landscape areas.
- The trees have a very symmetrical shape.
- There are virtually no pests or diseases that affect them.
- Bradford Pear trees are fast growers.
- They’re inexpensive to purchase.
But the negatives far outweigh the positives when it comes to the Bradford Pear. For example:
- Bradford Pears are structurally weak trees, making them susceptible to damage from high winds and ice storms.
- They look very fragile and are very fragile trees.
- The lifespan of these trees is usually less than 25 years.
- Bradford Pears form small, berry-like fruits that cover the ground once they begin falling.
- It’s very difficult to grow grass or any other plants beneath these trees.
- The trees can become invasive for various reasons.
- They become very lanky and unattractive with age, and pruning them doesn’t really help.
There are quite a few Bradford Pears in our neighborhood. The younger trees still have a very nice appearance, but the older specimens are looking a bit tired! Many have been heavily pruned due to wind damage or because the tops of their branches have become too weighty for the tree to support. Some have broken or dead limbs. Before long many of these trees will die and have to be removed. Will they be replaced with trees of the same type? I hope not!
We have several Bradford Pears in our yard and they’re gradually fading away. Though I’ll admit to having a love-hate relationship with them, they’ll be the last of their kind in our landscape. And that’s really a shame when I think about it, because in their prime they really are lovely little trees.