The beautiful Bradford pear tree, long seen lining the main streets of America, is hiding a few dirty secrets – it’s fragile, spreads indiscriminately, and is stinky.
Thanks to the mild winter, Main Street in Woodstock came alive early this year with the white blooms gracing both the east and west sides of the southern gateway into town.
The trees can grow several stories tall, and its fruit is inedible.
“We don’t really recommend people plant them,” said Kathy Lutz, owner of Tall Oaks Nursery in Mount Jackson. “They’re not a very strong tree, and the wind tends to break them up.”
She said the Bradford pear tree’s limbs have a tendency to get very full, which makes them more likely to break apart in a strong wind.
The Bradford pear, also called the callery pear, went through a period of popularity with the ornamentals planted along main streets by municipal crews.
That can be traced in part to Lady Bird Johnson planting one in the nation’s capital in 1966, according to a New York Times column by Gabriel Popkin in March 2016.”Today the Bradford pear may be the most despised tree in this part of the world ,” Popkin wrote. “Its wood splits easily, making extra work for utility and public works crews.”
The trees have a beautiful spring bloom, but a not-so-pretty aroma, according to the website growingthehomegarden.com.”The smell is reminiscent of rotting flesh or bad fish left for too many days in the hot sun,” the site notes evocatively.
Invasive.org refers to the scent as “malodorous,” but notes the tree’s spring snowy blossoms are “showy.”
Additionally, the Bradford pear is now considered an invasive species, its seed spread by birds who eat the fruit.Lutz cited a local example of a town swapping the Bradford pear for something a little easier to maintain.”New Market used to have a bunch of them, and they replaced them there using ivory silk lilac, which is white in spring as well, and they’re a lot stronger,” she said. “It’s a smaller ornamental.”If you already have a Bradford pear, there is a way to lessen your odds of it sustaining damage in high winds.
“A regular pruning to keep them thinned out helps a lot,” Lutz recommended.
If you’re looking for something to decorate your yard, there are other trees that can be substituted for the Bradford pear, according Lutz.
“There’s a Cleveland silk pear,” she said. “There’s some other pears that are stronger. They do well here.”
Rhonda Stevenson, of Country Gardens in Toms Brook, was even more direct in her advice than Lutz when it comes to the Bradford pear tree.
“The one thing [I recommend] is just eliminate Bradford pear from your landscape,” she said. “They do have some better varieties [of ornamental trees] on the market now.”