Despite their beauty, Bradford Pears are an invasive species

Local News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Even though it’s been cold this week – some trees are already blooming. 

One of those trees is the Bradford Pear.

They look pretty this time of year but they are turning into a nuisance and falling out of favor.

Bradford Pears came from China in 1964.

Originally, they were to be bred with fruit-bearing pear trees.

Those trees are susceptible to blight and don’t grow well in the east.

The Bradford Pear is resistant to that blight.

The breeding didn’t work, but the Bradford was seen as a quick growing pretty ornamental tree.  

It has pretty blooms in the spring, shiny green leaves in the summer and pretty deep red fall color, according to Douglas Ruhren with the RC Raulston Arboretum Gardens in Raleigh.

“Nurseries and landscapers like things that grow fast because it makes a show quickly in a landscape,” Ruhren said. 

However when you combine quick growth with easy pollination with other trees you can have a problem according to Ruhren. “It’s crowding out native plants, that is not a desirable thing.  Our native plants are better suited at supporting our wildlife.”

Ruhren says in the eastern and central U.S., the Bradford Pear has been classified as an invasive exotic species, just like kudzu.

“Exotic means, only means, that it is not a native plant and invasive, because it is spreading beyond where you want it,” Ruhren said.

Homeowners have found out its branch structure is weak and the wood is brittle, so they snap easily in wind storms or ice storms.  

Ruhren quips, “generally Bradford Pears don’t live to a great age, because they fall apart when they are in middle age.”  

Most trees don’t last past 20 years.

Short of cutting them all down, what should be done?  

“I think the first stage would be to stop planting them, educate the public and urge homeowners and landscapers to stop planting them,” Ruhren said.

Another negative is the smell of their blooms.  

Not all plants are pollinated by honey bees – Bradford Pears are pollinated by flies.

So, their blooms have a foul odor.  

“If you never smelled a Bradford Pear, stick your nose in it and it’ll probably be the last time you ever stick your nose in them.”

If you decide to cut your Bradford Pear down, make sure you destroy the stump, the tree can and does send up shoots even from a tree stump.

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