For years, the Bradford Pear has been an iconic Southern tree (simply because they’re everywhere). Grumpy Gardener Steve Bender is here to tell you that this stinky, oversized tree is not worth the hassle.
GREENVILE, S.C. — Now that spring is within shouting distance, some parts of the nation are filling up with fluffy white blossoms of the Bradford pear tree.
In recent decades, the trees have become commonplace in suburban yards across the country, but many gardening experts caution against the beautiful trees, saying they are menace to people and the environment.
The trees were introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture as ornamental landscape trees in the mid-1960s. They became popular with landscapers because they were inexpensive, transported well and grew quickly.
Here are a few things to know about Bradford pear trees:
Bradford pear trees can be dangerous
They can grow up to 30 feet tall, which is dangerous because the trees have a weak branch structure. Bradford pear trees often break apart within 20 years, as former Tribune-Times columnist Durant Ashmore has reported. Anything, and anyone, under a Bradford pear is at increased risk as the tree ages and its steep V crotch structure is strained.
Callery pears are like kudzu
Crossbreeding of Bradford pears with other pear trees has caused a boom in Chinese Callery pears, which have long, thick thorns that can’t be mowed down by traditional tractors and can choke out native trees much the same way as kudzu.
‘Do not plant’ Bradford pears
The South Carolina Forestry Commission has cautioned against planting the trees: “Do not plant Callery or Bradford pear. Instead, plant native alternatives, such as serviceberry, fringe tree, tupelo, or dogwood, among many others. Trees should be cut and stumps immediately treated with herbicides to eliminate sprouting response.”
The Peggy Clark apricot and crape myrtles are also worthy alternatives, Ashmore has reported.
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