Bradford pear trees seem to be everywhere- literally, everywhere. Maybe your neighbor has their driveway lined with them and you are in awe and envy of the beautiful blooms and shapes they are showing every spring. But, this gorgeous specimen is harboring deep dark secrets, more than one. Beneath that facade is a species of tree that never belonged here as it drops seeds and its offspring shoot up everywhere. They are even present in our forests now. Every single one that grows in a forest of native plant life will give life to hundreds more. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a problem, seeing all those white blooms in the spring. How could it be a bad thing? Well, the ugly truth lies beneath the canopy. This is only the beginning of why our state has put a bounty on this beauty.
All native plant life has learned to live simpatico. One never takes more than it gives to the fragile ecosystem. The native animals know which trees provide food, which provide shelter, and which provide all of that. The understory trees depend on certain natives for shelter from the elements and the natural mulch that occurs is beneficial to put nutrients back into the ground. The Bradford Pear tree really does nothing to add to the ecosystem. They rob the native plants of important nutrients and water. All while, hiding behind its own beauty, seducing the eyes of humans everywhere. It is wearing a mask that is hard to see behind- a facade, a ruse, a beautiful lie.
These trees were introduced in the 1960s, and quickly became a favorite of landscapers and city and town planners around the country. They were beautiful in the spring with their showy white blooms and pretty foliage in the fall. To sweeten the deal, they were also disease and pest-resistant and grew fast like weeds. By the ’90s, the ugly truth really became evident. The flowers were not pleasant to the sense of smell and were sticky and made quite a mess when they dropped. The limbs that hadn’t already broken out due to weather were weak and began to break out for no reason at all other than the fact that the limbs were heavy. There was also the issue of how they were supposed to stay small about 30′. They mature at 40 to 50 feet tall. So much for being short.
The Habitual Offender
It was becoming an increasingly difficult problem to ignore when they began to cross-pollinate and wreak havoc on the native trees. Essentially the crops of pears were now affected by these trees. New trees were reverting back to the characteristics of the Callery Pear (parent of the Bradford Pear) with long steel-like thorns. sticky fowl-smelling blooms and weak limbs.
I know, I know, you are still not convinced that you are destroying nature with your one harmless tree in the yard. but your one harmless tree is creating hundreds more. If you doubt my own words, look around when your Bradford is blooming. All those white blooms you see in the woods are rogue Bradfords that someone’s lone tree helped to spawn. When left to their own devices they will revert to their original Japanese parent genetics and can create impenetrable thickets with their twisted limbs and long thorns. Those thorns alone make removal risky for any tire that is in the area. John Deere tractor tires are no match for them. As they begin their wild journey, the thickets they form will almost certainly choke out the native flora and force fauna to search for other habitats in the future.
The point I suppose that should be made here is, that no matter how beautiful something appears to be, there is almost always a dark side that is hiding just below the surface, even trees. If it’s the blooms you want, may I suggest a flowering cherry tree or dogwood or fringe tree, or one of many other selections available at your local tree nursery or garden center? Ideally, you would choose a native plant, but at least don’t choose one that can become invasive. Do your research and know what you are buying. There is always an alternative that will give you similar results.