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When I started blogging many years ago and began chronicling my experiences making homemade deodorant and other sundries, I never thought I’d write a passionate post about why you should immediately cut down any Bradford Pear trees… but here we are.
Cut Down the Bradford Pear Tree?
I know that is a strong statement:
Go cut down any Bradford Pear Trees you have right now and never plant another one!
But why? They are so pretty with their gorgeous white flowers. Sure, they smell something fierce when they bloom, but they are so pretty!
You know what else is pretty? Dingo puppies:
and Mountain Laurel flowers:
But both of those can kill you. Those cute little wild puppies will bite your throat when they grow up. Those delicate little flowers can drop your blood pressure low enough to kill you.
Just being pretty doesn’t mean something is good or beneficial and while the harmless-looking Bradford Pear Tree may not bite your throat like a Dingo or lower your blood pressure dangerously like the Mountain Laurel, it is certainly problematic in its own way. In fact, they’ve even been called an environmental disaster.
Where Did Bradford Pear Trees Come From?
To understand why these trees are a problem, you have to understand where they came from.
The Bradford Pear Tree originated in China and were introduced in 1964 by the US Department of Agriculture as an ornamental tree. This flowering tree was assumed to be sterile (spoiler alert- it isn’t!) and was known for its weak branch structure. They have a lifespan of only 20-25 years, as anyone who has seen these trees in an ice storm can attest.
Now, normally, if you wanted to plant a weak and sterile tree in your yard, that wouldn’t bother me at all… so why do I hate the Bradford Pear so much? (and why am I even bothering to write about this tree in the first place?)
Why Bradford Pears are Dangerous?
It turns out, they aren’t sterile as it was assumed.
Sure, they don’t pollinate among themselves, but these promiscuous and stinky little trees like to pollinate with EVERYTHING else out there.
This leads to some major environmental problems:
Because of the cross pollination problem, pear trees have now proliferated exponentially across our environment. And, to make matters worse, the evil offspring has reverted to the ancient Chinese Callery pears which form impenetrable thorny thickets that choke the life out of pines, dogwoods, maples, redbuds, oaks, hickories, etc.
When you see those fields of white flowering trees, please don’t get giddy with excitement over pretty white flowers. What you are looking at are Callery pears destroying nature. Callery pears have 4 inch thorns. They can’t be mowed down. Those thorns will shred John Deere tractor tires. They can only be removed by steel tracked dozers, decreasing the value of agricultural or forest land to the tune of $3,000 per acre. (source)
Did You Catch That?
They may not be hurting your yard, but they are causing major damage for farmers and choking out beautiful (and valuable) hardwood trees. Which is why I’m writing about this topic today. In fact, all reputable nurseries know about the problems with these trees. Good landscapers refuse to plant them.
I’ve been on hikes and encountered these Callery pears and their 4-inch thorns myself and they aren’t nice.
Those pretty little white trees in your yard are cross pollinating and causing these problems all over.
We brought these trees over thinking they wouldn’t reproduce and now they are doing just that and taking over native species. We tampered with nature and like the Kudzu taking over the South or the Burmese Pythons taking over the Everglades and eating alligators, we created a big problem.
Let’s try to fix this one. Cut them down… now!
Other Problems with Breadford Pears
Not only are these trees causing serious damage to native plants and shredding tractor tires, but they come with other problems as well.
Bradford Pear trees are structurally weak. Many people love them because they are perfectly symmetrical and grow in a beautiful shape. They even maintain this gorgeous shape for about 2 months until rain, snow or even a mild breeze causes them to break in half.
Seriously… they have a lifespan of only about 20 years and will usually die as a result of ice, snow or even rain making their branches too heavy.
We’ve all seen these trees cracked in half after a storm. Why plant a tree that will just be a mess to clean in the yard in a few years?
Prevent grass from growing:
Grass has trouble growing underneath Bradford Pear trees and often the area under these trees is bare and muddy.
Get too big:
These were supposed to be small, ornamental trees that only grow 25 feet tall and equally wide. Unfortunately, no one informed the trees themselves, as they sometimes get twice as big and overtake the small yards they are planted in.
And they stink:
As an irrelevant side note, they also smell really, really bad. Their smell has been compared to various foul smells including rotting fish (as well as a couple other smells I’ll avoid listing for the sake of any younger readers). Do you really want that in your yard?
Does the Bradford Pear Tree Produce Fruit?
Now, all of those negatives could potentially be less of a problem if the tree at least did something beneficial, like produce fruit that you could eat.
But it doesn’t.
It was originally created to be sterile and so produces no fruit. Instead, it cross pollinates with other species and creates all kinds of problems.
How to Cut Them Down
I’ve seen anti-Bradford Pear campaigns from various cities around the country encouraging people to cut these trees down. Some cities, like Pittsburgh, have gone so far as to ban them completely.
If you are considering planting trees in your yard, please choose other options. If you already have some of these in your yard, consider cutting them down and replacing with something less harmful.
Unfortunately, this won’t be the easiest tree to eliminate. Cutting it down is the first step, but getting rid of it completely requires some extra effort. Now is a great time of year to do this before they bloom in the spring and Fall is a great time to plant new trees.
Here’s What to Do
- Cut down the tree.
- Grind out the root.
- Prepare for battle: These trees don’t give up easily and they will send out hundreds of suckers, or shoots, from the roots for up to two years after you cut it down until the roots finally give up and die.
- During this time, you can do things like: drill holes in the root and pack salt into it (this will help a little).
- Mow often so the sprouts can’t get big or go to seed.
- If grass isn’t growing anyway, consider covering with black plastic to choke out the roots and then re-seeding once the roots are gone.
- Replace the stinky Bradford Pear tree with a beneficial and equally beautiful tree (suggestions below).
Alternatives to the Bradford Pear Tree
Thankfully, these are dozens of better alternatives that you can plant in your yard. Choose alternatives based on your needs:
- Shade: Plant bigger trees that will create shade as they grow. Maples and Oaks are good options.
- Flowers: Try Redbuds, Serviceberry or Carolina Silverbell.
- Looks: Consider Japanese Maples or Peggy Clark Maples.
- Food: Or, plant a tree that actually produces something useful, like an apple, peach, or cherry tree.
Your yard and our native species of plants will thank you!
Do you have any of these trees? Did you know about the terrible effects of them?
Discussion (89 Comments)
This is very interesting! I think I have a bradford pear tree, but it doesn’t match your description of them at all. It hasn’t produced fruit in a few years (its been hit by lightning twice! We’ve needed to remove it anyway because it is very near dead!) But I did get quite a large amount of fruit from it five years ago. It was a very hard and nearly inedible pear, but it was indeed fruit! It doesn’t have especially pretty flowers and it doesnt stink… maybe its not a bradford pear after all! Haha. If it is or if it isn’t, its coming down.
Very interesting post though!!
The pear you may be referring to may be a Kiefer pear. I have one and they are very hard and do not actually don’t ripen until after they are picked. More of a cooking pear but I love them either way.
This was great info. My husband wanted to cut the one down in our yard and I said NO. Now I guess we have a good reason and I can feel good about it. Thank you.
Just the smell alone was enough to get me on board with eliminating every single one… Happy to spread the word!
Here in Oregon the developer planted Hawthorne trees. They must be some mutant offspring!!! They have 3 to 4 inch thorns that are deadly, In spring they produce white blossoms with a putrefying aroma and then form small crabapple like fruit that drop on the sidewalks and decay. The more I prune these back they defiantly grow and yes the roots at ground level grow all these annoying shoots. I have poured bleach on them which decreased their growth, but more have spring up!!
I and the neighbors hate them — demonic trees!!
Hawthorns, also called thorn apple, are in the “rose” family, not related to bradford pears.
I guess you were unaware that pears are also in the rose family.
@Joseph, Bradford pears also in the rose family…
@Ronna Meyers – The Arbor Day Foundation sends people in the Northeast Hawthornes to plant so they can’t be that bad. I have both, 2 Hawthornes (both from Arbor Day) and a 8 year old what appears to be a Bradford Pear tree (was existing on the property when we purchased home. There are no thorns at all on it, no fruit yet, but the leaves look identical to images of Bradford and flower beautifully in April. It does have some branches that are bent over and we thought maybe the bear were trying to climb it and that’s how they broke, but now, it could just be the porcupines were since you mentioned how weak they are! Thanks for the info. Ours doesn’t smell terrible, no scent really at all when flowering, but I do know the Japanese beetles love this tree in summer:(
Not sure if the term Bradford pear is applied properly to all the species. I have what I thought were Bradford pear trees in my yard. They have never produces thorns or fruit and have survived 4 hurricanes, 3 tropical storms , a week of rare solid ice and numerous flash flooding. They bloom beautifully in spring and keep green foliage until the fall. Could you elaborate a bit on the scientific name of the tree you are referring to.
Same. I’ve had a Bradford pear in our front yard for at least a decade and maybe longer. No thorns. No stinky smell and we live in Michigan where we get ample snow and ice. The tree has held up beautifully. Let’s hope folks vet this article before robotically rushing to cut down their Bradford pear trees.
You may have BARTLETT pear, not Bradford pear. Although the Bartlett pear is a fruit tree, it may not necessarily produce fruit. Colder climates often cause the flowers to be killed from late freezing. If you could upload a photo of the tree and the leaves it would help, or to find out for sure, contact your local county agricultural extension office and they have horticulturists who can identify what kind of tree it is (for free).
they don’t produce the thorns until they are cut down and the suckers grow back
Wow, this is great. We just moved and I have been eager to get some flowering trees as well as fruit trees. So glad to know this! Thanks for caring to share!
That is about it where my interest in your blog goes, right down into the trash. Who gives you authority to instill fear where wild animals are concerned. You are not educated in wildlife, nor are you well versed or properly informed in creating natural products. I can appreciate competence in knowledge of sharing products, but only when it’s safe and coming from a good source. And to be subscribed to a blog when the administrator claims to have proper information where wild animals are concerned, count me out along with many others who are well educated in the field. There are certainly a vast number of creatures that can cause bodily harm, this is instinct at the threat of being attacked or in protecting territory or their young, among many other reasons for the nature of the species. I remind you, you are not an authority on how to publicly educate the general population where wildlife is concerned.
I was not trying to educate the public on anything relating to wildlife. I was just using it as an example of how just because something is cute, it isn’t necessarily harmless. I was actually recently visiting a wildlife rehabilitation facility that has Dingos and read the warning on the cage about the danger they can pose (and why not to put your hand in the cage). I certainly wasn’t suggesting anyone should harm Dingos or that they aren’t valubale creatures, just that they, as a wild animal, can be dangerous. Sorry that was apparently confusing.
You just can’t win, can you?
Not as confusing as the rest of the article. Here’s where it is lacking:
-The Callery pear, named for Joseph-Marie Callery, was imported to the Armstrong Arboretum and USDA Experiment Center in 1909 and 1916.
-Valued for its remarkable resistance to fire blight and other diseases and insects that almost destroyed the pear industry, it was used for rootstocks and pollinating programs to impart its good traits to varieties such as Bartlett, Bosc, and D’Anjou. It became and remains an important asset to pear breeders.
-It wasn’t until about a half-century later, Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’, named for a developer at the Maryland testing station, was introduced. It is only one of many cultivars of Callery pear grown as ornamentals. An undeterminable number of wild genomes exist as well. All are Callery but none are ‘Bradford’. The birds do a fine job of reforestation.
-Every Rose (yes, pears are in the Rose family) has its thorns, but nobody is seeking to eradicate them over it. I suggest we put away the hatchets and enjoy the flowers, while we still can. Think about it while enjoying your pear honey, ‘Anjou red’, or any of the 3000+ pear varieties that might not have survived, were it not for the introduction of a little known but hardy species over a century ago.
I just read an article on Facebook, which stated that Columbia, South Carolina, had issued a request for all the Bradford Pear trees to be cut down.
I believe it’s Philadelphia where these trees are banned. (I may be incorrect about the city).
I have also read, that while birds can eat the tiny “pears,” the small fruit can also kill or make small dogs sick.
The whole area behind the vinyl fence in my back yard is a tangle of roots, which make the area dangerous to walk through.
Don’t worry about the dingoes. It is obvious that you were just using them to make a point.
Wow, this new society of easily offended weirdos. They get up every morning looking for something that they can pretend to be offended by. Don’t speak I’ll of Godzilla, I’m sure sure they love him top.
BTW, I loved the article. I planted a Bradford Pear about 30 years ago, in my front yard. My mother just told me yesterday to go by (Its a rental now) and look at how beautiful it is in full bloom. Thanks for the info.
P.S.- I’ll pray for the Song is (& the wierdos).
I think you missed it…..
Well Abby, would you like to hear it from a WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, HORTICULTURIST, APIARIST, and INDEPENDENT FARMER, as well as a retired “GREEN BERET”? She, “Wellness Mama” wasn’t trying to instill fear in wildlife, she was simply using those as examples of INVASIVE SPECIES that can be dangerous and pose environmental problems. If you knew anything, other than the PETA lies and sniveling, then you would know that Australia (home of the Dingo) has waged war on those dogs for many years because of their destructive behavior; Dingoes are not like wolves or foxes, they are feral descendants of domestic dogs. So get off of your high horse and ride your lame goat!
This article actually was very straight forward in showing WHY people need to stop planting these invasive species. Bradford pears also cause another problem, and that is that honeybees will avoid them and their odor in the early spring causes the bees to also avoid plants (that need pollination) that are in close proximity.
by the way, I also raise Burmese pythons (for the last 30 years).
I have tons of honey bees on my bradford trees each summer. I’ve lived in this house for 23 years and they were here before me. They don’t stink. I have heard of these trees not lasting too long and this year have seen many sucklers from one of my trees. We don’t have any of whatever she calls them plants with 4 inch thorns around here either. Maybe it’s just in certain areas of the states?
I’m 100% with you on your comments. Our ornamental pear tree serves us well. It has been a little messier than usual last year with leaves coming down in winter vs fall and this spring little flowerlettes are all over patio. Bees and birds abound in my tree. I’ve only had a few broken branches in its life – it is planted at corner of house so maybe more protected than others. We get our fair share of snow and ice and winds here in woodridge a suburb of Chicago. I’ve got various perennials growing under my tree with no problems. And No suckers. Now if you want to get me started on the Norway maple out front, I can give a list of negatives from shallow roots under tree to little helicopter seeds flying here there and everywhere to root themselves. So with everything in nature, there is beauty and and then there are negatives.
Thank you for setting the picture a bit straighter – for those who love useless, just look pretty imported “goods”; Why we do not plant native trees is beyond me!
Well said. Australia can educate all of us the wrong way to bring in non native species.
Are you an expert?
Rofl! Someone needs a Prozac.
Wow! That was a mouthful! Did you happen to notice most of the blog was in regards to the Bradford Pear Tree? I’m so glad I read her blog as earlier this evening I heard a loud noise, and a huge arm of the tree fell and everything she said about the tree is correct! No critters, just an old tree with big heavy arms. This tree sends up suckers everywhere!
There wasn’t anything offensive about her blog…..geez……you don’t have to behave like a Dingo!!
I, too, hate these trees. About two years ago, I moved into a townhouse, and I noticed that the back of my unit, along with five other homes, was lined with Bradford pears. These trees shed something or other just about year round. I can’t even go outside in Spring because of the awful smell, which seems to aggravate my allergies and cough. My very small, fenced in yard is inundated with roots everywhere I try to dig. Limbs grow over my roof, and I worry about damage. Last week, about a third of one of the trees in a common area fell to the ground because of a little wind. Two days later, the other side of the tree fell, leaving only a tall, scrawny trunk. I am worried about some large limb falling on my roof or fence. I also have to worry about my little dog getting hold of a noxious pear. I have been trying to convince the HOA to do something about these trees, but just get empty lip service. Now, they worry about it being the wrong time of year to trim up the trees. I have threatened to get my ladder and cut everything in my air space, even though I am not able to do this.
Thank you for the very interesting and informative article. Just in the nick of time! I also loved these trees for their beauty and thought of planting one. So glad I didn’t. I will help spread the word.
Thanks for this info – I’ve had a love/hate relationship with a Bradford Pear tree in my parking area.
Loved the tree, and the way it showed the seasons changing – here’s a picture of it at one point –
They were planted at all houses when new probably 30 years ago.
I finally had to have it taken out.
The roots overwhelmed the space under it, and trying to mow there was a disaster for my mower –
The roots were cracking the sidewalk and lifting the driveway, not to mention the problems they were causing for the sprinklers, which I could no longer even fix because the roots were too overwhelming in the area.
I gave up trying, and then the suckers started sprouting up all around the base of it, and I didn’t keep them in check – ended up like a mini forest with little suckers growing from all the roots before long.
I was also concerned that branch on the right would break off. Had the one on the left break off a year or two earlier. And it was my neighbor that parked under the tree, so the branch on the right concerned me.
Finally got the city to cut it down – after they kept complaining that I wasn’t maintaining the parking area.
Stump was still there, and all the roots as well above level, so nothing would grow there yet.
Paid a landscaper/gardener to take it down further – about 4″ below level,and get in some grass.
Loved the tree, but glad it was gone.
Now on to the next phase… the grass is mostly dead – not watering enough to keep it looking good because of the water situation (So Cal).
So I’m looking for a new tree to put in the area, and want to mulch it all and put in drip lines with some kind of individual plant design in some way. But no more Bradford Pear.
Wanted a Moringa tree, but the city has an approved list of trees, and it’s not on the list.
Would love a street lined with various fruit trees, but also not on the approved list, and that makes sense – the drawbacks related to maintenance/cleanup would probably be a mess on the streets.
So, still looking for a good replacement this Fall.
Good information, Katie. Will people EVER learn?