Your shopping cart is empty.
Find the right pro for your project

What's with all the Bradford pears??

September 27, 2006

On my recent trip to the upstate, I couldn't help but notice that Bradford pears must be the state tree of South Carolina! What's the big fascination? Can you eat them? Do they have pretty flowers?

Comments (11)

  • Dibbit

    They have pretty flowers, for about 2 weeks, if a late frost doesn't get them. BUT they are very prone to storm damage. A lot of people have planted them over the years since they were introduced, and a lot of nurseries still sell them, although there are now better, sturdier cultivars. Me, I would much rather plant sonething that has fruit (either colorful or edible) and more fall color, but, to each his own, I guess.

  • brenda_near_eno

    Bradford pears are the scourge of the Carolinas. And now they have definitely been shown to be an invasive exotic - like kudzu.

  • alicia7b

    Their best feature is their fall color. They start from the top down, so they look like they've been turned over and dipped in raspberry dye when they start to turn. Because of their dense branching, it seems they inevitably split apart in storms, unless they're in a very sheltered location. I don't care for the flowers at all -- a dirty white. They are much too commonly planted here too.

  • esh_ga

    And they are stinky too! Try walking through an old office park full of them in the spring ... phew! A tree that had way too good of a publicity agent, in my opinion.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    Believe me, not just the Carolinas! They are a scourge PERIOD! I thought it was kinda a SC thing when I lived there for 22 years, but upon moving to Northern Alabama (recently) I find this area to be polluted with them, as well. Tennessee, too.

    They are extremely short lived....storms or no storms. An avenue planted with these trees is destined to be an eyesore in about 10 years. So, don't be tempted by the allure, lol!

  • aisgecko

    Ironically the newer, sturdier cultivars are the problem. Originally they were sterile, but had a high tendency to split. The newer ones aren't quite as bad about splitting, but they produce viable fruit. A friend of mine has a Bradford pear forest behind her house from volunteer seedlings. And there's not a single Bradford on her property. I too think they are kind of ungly and stinky in the spring, but they do have amazing fall color. I believe part of their charm for builders is that they grow so fast, but talk about unimaginative! There was one on our property when we moved in, but not for long. I think they should be banned because of the threat they pose to natural areas. But sadly, it's probably too late. There's a long laundry list of plants that have escaped cultivation partly due to overuse from builders IMO. They use them because they are fast and easy, which makes them perfectly suited to escape and take over. Nandina, privet, Bradford of course, and ivy to name a few. Some neighborhood covenents practically forbid you to cut down your bradford because they require that you have a tree of a certain size in your yard so they are expensive to replace. I'm so glad I don't live in one of those places. My favorite part of bradfords is the satisfaction I get when they eventually split apart. I'm evil, I know. -Ais.

  • pfmastin

    Bradford Pears aren't limited to the southeast. They're e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e!

  • trianglejohn

    All of them produce pollen which in turn crosses with other pears and creates the nuisance hybrid pears you find sprouting up everywhere around cities. A big problem when plants are listed as sterile - this often only means they don't produce fruit with seeds, it doesn't mention the pollen they still produce and its effect on wild plants or other cultivated plants.

    I like the look of bradfords/callery/mutant pears. I like seeing them in bloom and I love the teardrop shape and the fall color. But they ain't worth the hassle.

    They are readily available and easy to produce. City parks with limited budgets can only afford to plant cheap fast growing trees. At my park (Lake Benson) they have a long drive lined with bradfords. When the storms damage a few, the crew chainsaws them down and replants another one right beside it. When I complained, the guy explained that they grow so fast and are so affordable it is the only option they have if you want trees planted at the park.

  • Dibbit

    That's more if you want early-flowering trees in the park. I have a couple of tulip poplar trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) that I pulled/weeded and potted from my flower beds. I then planted them where I wanted shade trees, after overwintering them in the pots, and the 3 year old one is now 6-8' tall. I'm not sure when it will begin to flower, but it's certainly a goodly size.

    The other thing to be said for the Bradford pears is that they all grow in pretty much the same shape, so the major difference between one planted this year and one planted 8-10 years ago is the size. If you want uniformity, as along a drive, than they will give you that. Trees like the tulip tree will grow in a much less-uniform shape. And the pears won't get too big either, about 25 feet max., if only because they rarely live long enough to get much taller...., I have been told that they can actually grow to 50', but I've never seen one anything near that height.

  • zigzag

    Shortly after moving here, I was entranced by this beautiful flowering tree outside my apartment. Such pretty blossoms, a snow like dusting when the petals fell and then such pretty pear green foliage to follow .... and soooo early, by my Northern standards. The honeymoon ended quickly - in not short order, I learned all 'bout them :o(

    Per city mandates, each house here in my subdivision has a 'tree' and BP's are included, but thankfully not exclusively. My home site did get one (I was not consulted) which my 'Elves' advised me to remove and replace. Not one to murder anything green and living, I dug it out and gave the BP to a neighbor w/a rental unit to prettify.

    Landscape plan introduced a Shackleford Serviceberry in place of my BP - it's doing okay, but the BP next door (tight lots) is definitly overshadowing it with it's incredibly fast growth. All I can do is hope that when the BP splinters, it doesn't hit my SS.

    Meanwhile, I also have a Styrax aka Carolina/Japanese Silverbell (or somethng like that) which is a real winner. A (getting) big one in my side yard and another smaller one in front - that one was a surprise from my Elves - short and round, just like me ! And perfect in the oval garden they created.

    Researching the Styrax, I read that in many areas the BP is being prohibiited for all the reasons mentioned in posts above and the Styrax is the underutilized tree of choice. But, they still seem to be few and far between.

  • jqpublic

    I had a friend whose dad grew them on a terraced hill in their backyard. They were in a lot of shade and they grew very tall and straight(columnar). When hurricane fran came through they toppled or leaned over the hill. Those were the tallest bradfords I'd ever seen.

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268 (Mon-Sun).