Follow by Email

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bradford Pear Trees

My dad believed in planting a tree that makes food. When I first bought a house, people said get a Bradford Pear Tree. My sister told my mom she was planting a Bradford Pear Tree. Mom says, "Great. I love pears." My sister shook her head.
Wild Ripe Persimmons which are native to Georgia

Bradford Pear is a cultivar loaded with white blossoms and leaves that turned lovely reds, oranges and purples each fall. Add to that it grew quickly, who could complain. Each fall it would be loaded with tiny, woody pears that softened with freezing temperatures. Birds ate freely and there was no worry about an unwanted invasive species. The seeds were sterile.

Then the soft wood cracked in the winter time and a beautifully shaped tree became misshapen. People trimmed them so that it did not branch so much from the base. The tree still rarely lives more than 25 years. Large oaks grace the neighborhood I grew up. An adjoining neighborhood smiles with dogwoods and azaleas every spring.

You don't see old Bradford Pears in neighborhoods. The rumors that they grow into stately trees one day is just a myth. However, you go by unused fields and you see sprigs of white flowers of volunteer Bradfords. Wait, they are supposed to be sterile.

It gets worse, they revert to Callory Pears which grow into thick thickets like wild plums that are native to North America. Callory Pears are native to China. These thickets of trees have four inch thorns that will easily puncture the tire of a tractor. It takes a tractor with steel tread to travel over a thicket and destroy them.

Pears are not native to North America. Peach trees are not native. We grow a lot of plants that are not native. The problem is whether they become invasive. Fireblight attacks Pear trees in the humid East. So commercially, they are grown in the Northwest. Callory Pear roots are used to produced many grafted varieties of Pears.

I'll be cutting my Pear trees down in the backyard. I was slack and I allowed a few suckers to grow. They actually did better than the original tree. The original trees were destroyed by blight. One tree is one side small knotty Bradford pears and the other nice large eating Pears. We enjoy watching the deer eat them. And this is why I will cut them down. Those small pears mate with the large pears. The deer eat the large pears. Everywhere they defecate, more Callory Pear trees will eventually grow. It might take ten years for enough generations to turn over to Callory; but, they will be there.

If you grow a Bradford in proximity to a European  or Asian Fruit Pear tree, you are producing viable seed that will eventually revert to the original Callery Pear. It is an invasive species which is as bad as Chinese Privet and Kudzu.

So those old opinions to grow a native plant or something you can eat is something to heed. I have planted some more Pear trees. I'll watch for suckers this time. With the blight attacking the other trees, I don't have much hope for the new trees.  Fortunately, I have planted many Apple trees. You don't want the deer to go hungry. They also enjoy the Persimmons and other native plant fruits.

I plan to plant some common pear trees that are not invasive.

Links for further study.

Article merely warns people that Bradford Pear is not a reliable ornamental tree and suggests a Native plant.

Picture of Callery Pear fruit.

University of Florida discussion of Bradford Pear without mention of invasive tendencies.

Clemson University in South Carolina discusses invasive problems of Callery Pear.

University of Georgia publication warning of the Bradford Pear's invasiveness

Greenville, South Carolina article by Durant Ashmore discussing the future problems of Bradford Pears


21 comments:

  1. Wow, Ann, I never knew. We've been out looking at pear trees but after reading this, I think we'll stick to a sweet cherry tree, which flourish in these parts. Have a great day and thanks for the great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was quite the surprise for me. I think these problems have recently become evident.

      Delete
  2. I had no idea about this. I'm in the UK and have some pears, but they are very well behaved!
    All best with the challenge!
    Amanda (from www.amandafleet.co.uk)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The European varieties are good to grow. They just don't grow well in the Southeastern United States. I have found a Common Pear that is an old timey European pear tree that does well here. The fruit is grainey but I am planting for the wild animals that visit. Thanks for visiting.

      Delete
  3. Interesting! I love learning something new. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kelly. I try to make this blog a resource for teachers. There is so much research you have to do to be prepared to teach each day.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Thank you shortybear. I like your nickname.

      Delete
  5. This is brilliant, Ann. Here in Curaçao legend says it's hard—near impossible, even—to grow anything (besides cacti and mesquite)... it's very dry, very little rain, shallow topsoil layer, salty ocean air. But (ha! you knew there was a but coming) the fact is that, if there's a proper water supply, the soil is quite good. People have been importing non-indigenous species for... well, centuries. We don't have deer, but we do have birds and iguanas that feast on the fruit trees in the yard: tamarind, kenepa (not sure what that would be in English—or even in Spanish for that matter; it's the Papiamentu name), and something called mispel, which I'd never seen or heard of before coming here, and I'm sure there'll be mixing in with other non-endemic species... You've given me something interesting to research here :) Thank you!

    And thank you, too, for the visit over at Life In Dogs earlier; I loved your comments. Always a treat to connect with a fellow animal lover :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the compliment and visit. After awhile, the invasive species becomes part of the landscape. We animal lovers do get along well.

      Delete
  6. Fascinating! Nature can give us some nasty surprises. My parents bought into the "Bradford pear fad". It was disappointing for two reasons: the flowers had a weird smell (we didn't care for it, anyway), and as you stated they are prone to all sorts of weather and disease damage. My Dad cut it down and burned out the stump and suckers. They replaced it with a holly, which provides shelter and berries for a multitude of tiny birds. (Please don't tell me that it has any bad habits!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I think most Hollies are native. And the birds do love their seeds. Bradfords bloom when my allergies are at their worst. I never really thought they were that pretty in bloom. But when the leaves change colors, they are gorgeous.

      Delete
  7. Lots of info here I didn't know, Ann. I have fond memories of large pear trees. My grandparents had them. I climbed them as a child and also ate the pears:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think those old timey pears are a problems. They were grand trees. I plan to purchase common pear seedlings which are what our grandparents grew to plant along my property line on one side. I like the wildlife having food.

      Delete
  8. Well, then. No Bradford Pears for me!

    @niicki from OfftheBeatenPlan.com & IVEYbooks.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are for sale everywhere here. I would have bought one but I am glad I didn't.

      Delete
  9. Fascinating - the story of a pear orchard gone bad. I had no idea that pear trees could be such a challenge. I love to eat pears and until today, that's all I knew about them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unless a commercially grown pear is near a Bradford tree, there is no problem. It is more the homegrown pears that could become problematic. Surprisingly, it is states like Indiana that are feeling the problem. However, I've seen the Pear volunteers in Georgia.

      Delete
  10. I have seen Bradford trees in full blossom they looked quite pretty. I had not known about their invasive nature.
    A very well researched post!
    Stopping by via the AtoZ sign up list. Happy blogging!

    @yenforblue from
    Spice of Life!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Our bradford pear trees are coming up on 50 years I think they did well because we have good run-off (on our property) and we keep the limbs trimmed. The limbs do break off when waterlogged. I will not ever plant a Bradford.
    Im blogging for thew A to Z Challenge from Fill the cracks and Moondustwriter's Blog. Happy A to Zing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 50 years, that is amazing. Pear trees in the wild can get to 50 years but cultivated pears rarely make it past 40. Sometimes you do get lucky with plants.

      Bradford was introduced in 1908. It is surprising that it took so long for them to become a problem. I think some states have a bigger problem than others. Missouri and Indiana have programs to stop the callory pear. So I imagine some states have a bigger problem than others.

      I almost planted two this year. They were marked down. Then I read the article. So I will be cutting my hybrid pear trees down. Thanks for visiting.

      Delete

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Comments with links will not be published.