Of Bradford Pears

whitecapMarch 7, 2011

25 years ago, all the rage. Now, along with photinia and nandina, disfavored and disdained. Mine is in full bloom. Contrary to widespread belief, the blooms are quite odorless. It is now perhaps in its 13th year, somewhat taller than my roof. It has never obliged me to uproot a single volunteer. It is well-formed and sturdy, the result of keeping it pruned to a single trunk until 7 ft. tall. It gets by nicely on the same amount of water the turf grass gets. In the fall, it is spectacular. I just picked up another one, 9 ft. tall, $44 at BigBox. Wish I had room for more.

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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

I wish mine had taken lessons from yours on having odorless blooms, Whitecap, as the blooms on mine STINK. They are beautiful while in bloom, I just try to stay as far away from them as possible during that time.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 9:34AM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

Mine is in it's 26th year and beginning to decline. When we moved to our area, the new HOA (not the nasty kind - just a loose association) voted to make the Bradford Pear the neighborhood tree, so as many homeowners as could, planted one. Over the 26 years most were taken out by high winds - ours may be the only one left because it had a pecan tree windbreak to the southwest of it and an oak to the north. It's been a beautifully shaped tree for us, although now it is getting spindly and has lost some branches high up in the canopy. I would plant another, being mindful of the fact it needs wind protection. The blooms don't smell bad on ours either.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 9:52AM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

I got to talking to my mom, who taught me to garden from very young childhood, about "trash trees".
She said that there really is no such thing. It's the right tree in the right place. She also mentioned that MOST ornamental trees, including edible fruit, do not live much past 25, no matter what the kind. She pointed out that not all plants live a zillion years like Oaks,Pecans, and Cypress.
I personally don't care for Bradford pears and I do think they stink. So I don't plant them in my garden. If you like Bradfords plant them and enjoy! Don't worry too much about what others think. After all it's just an opinion, you're not growing narcotics or something. Know in around 20 or so years you'll have to replace them.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 11:23AM
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whitecap

Perhaps my olfactory mechanisms, like my knees, just aren't what they used to be. I suspect, though, that there are some bootleg clones of the Bradford out there that do not have the same characteristics as the original cultivar. I haven't looked deeply into the subject, but it's my impression that the Bradford, bred to be sterile, can become fertile through cross-pollination with certain other ornamental pears, producing plants with undesirable traits (thorns, for instance.) This had led to the Bradford being condemned as "invasive" in certain areas. Who knows. Groups undertaking to spread "awareness" of "invasive" plants do not, in my opinion, gain in credibility through close association with groups seeking grants for the removal of said plants.

Perhaps one productive use of the Bradford would be to provide shade while waiting for live oaks to mature, instead of using those awful cottonwoods and Arizona ashes. As for the odor, one can always sniff before buying.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 12:11PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

The ornamental pears in my area have become fertile. On the one hand it's a pain with the fruit and thorns. On the other hand, it's kind of amazing that mother nature finds a way to produce fruit for animals. Kind of like, "Look a FRUIT tree with no FRUIT! We must fix this right away!" Here's an article that explains why they become fertile without getting too complicated.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ornamental pears becoming fertile

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 2:22PM
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whitecap

Pace Ms. Phillips, I haven't noticed any "thorny wild stands" of Bradford pears in Central Texas.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 4:26PM
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MidnightBirdGirl(Zone 7)

We have two and they don't smell at all, good, bad, or indifferent. Nothing. But we are taking them out this year. Trees should have a purpose. We are replacing them with real fruit trees.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 5:44PM
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tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)

Mine got taken out last year. It didn't turn into a snowball in the spring because the leaves popped out at the same time. It didn't turn a pretty color in the fall. It just was there. I blame the latter on it being planted under a red oak, so it didn't get enough sun, but that could just be me making excuses for it. I wouldn't plant one because they're all over the place and really have too weak of a branch structure for Texas weather. Plus, I have a problem with planting a tree that has a short life. I don't want to have to cut it down later, or worse PAY to have it cut down.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 6:43PM
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whitecap

It further occurs to me that, notwithstanding how it may perform in Florida or elsewhere, properly characterizing a plant as "invasive" in Texas requires, at a minimum, a demonstration that it is capable of surviving a Texas summer without supplemental watering. I do not believe this can be said of the Bradford pear.

The last plant I bought was a mahonia. On my property, it has no conceivable purpose. I think I will allow it to stay anyway.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:03PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

It's terrible tree for shade tree. For ornamental tree, it's fine. Every year, I see bradford trees split in half after severe spring thunderstorm only to see that they have to start all over for shade. It isn't just in Texas. Go over to Tree forum and they will go rabid over it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:18PM
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copingwithclay

Midnightbirdgirl, instead of going through the trouble of taking out your mature Bradford pears and replacing them with little fruit trees, there is a better mousetrap to consider.Bradford pear trees make a great rootstock to graft sticks from fruit-producing pear trees. Very good quality pear trees that can grow fruit in your area would be'happy' to have some of their twigs grafted onto your Bradford branches. If you wanted to try this, grafters on this forum would coach you, and web sites offer very good help. If unwilling, then maybe your local county extension agent could help. Please don't waste the mature Bradford w/o considering this possibility. I bought 5 fairly large Bradfords for this purpose of grafting on them with high quality pear graftwood. All 5 are growing well with their new branches.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 8:49PM
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whitecap

I don't want for shade. At last count, I had 6 large oaks, a couple of old mesquites, and a huge magnolia. The Bradford cannot compete with them, but neither can they with it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 10:47PM
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whitecap

I will grant you that, if you allow a Bradford to grow willy-nilly, the result will be a structurally weak tree. The true test is how one properly shaped will perform. As for the "Gurus," they deliver themselves of many pronouncements which owe little to personal experience and direct observation--a case in point being the notion that photinias swoon from fungal disorders as soon as they are placed in the ground. Just drive around any Central Texas neighborhood and see how many diseased ones you can spot.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 9:37AM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

Whitecap, a gardening friend and I were driving through a neighborhood yesterday that had beautifully pruned and shaped Bradfords, and they were stunning. I am assuming they had them professionally done as they were very uniform in shape.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 11:37AM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

Actually, Bradford pears naturally grow to that stunning shape. That's what made them so popular when they were first introduced. But, after about 20 years, if they survive the winds and ice, they do tend to decline and they lose that lovely shape.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:03PM
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sfmathews(7B/8A)

I hate the smell of them as well. A neighbor has a line of them along his privacy fence in the backyard. And all the little white petals get tracked in the house. :(

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 3:52PM
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whitecap

Neil Sperry lists five other cultivars of Callery Pears. Perhaps some are more odoriferous than the Bradford.

I don't think a sturdy shape comes naturally to the Bradford. I had to butcher mine for several years to maintain it to a single trunk until it got 6 or 7 feet tall. At that point, the branches assumed a more vertical angle.

On Henderson Pass Road, in San Antonio, between Thousand Oaks and 1604, there is a long row of them, along the street. They were there 20 years ago, and I would guess they are a good 25 years old. It pains me to look at them, every time I pass that way. They were allowed to branch out vertically, only 3 or 4 feet from the ground. Still, there they are, ancient and intact. We don't get any ice storms down this way, of course.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:57PM
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maden_theshade(8 - Austin)

I used to really dislike the Bradfords...until I bought a house with one. It is one of the first trees to leaf out and shade our back yard. Just wish it were on the West side instead of the East side!

I can never figure out the smell thing. We have Bradfords at work and some years, they do seem to smell. And then this year, never noticed any odor. I've yet to notice an odor on the tree in my yard. It's odd.

And you know, those clever squirrels will eat anything, including the false fruits on my Bradford. :-)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 12:00AM
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michael_dean_mindspring_com

I don't mind them really, except they are so commonly planted they are kind of boring. There are three of them in my yard (planted by previous owner). They are the largest nicest trees on the lot, so they aren't going anywhere, but I don't think I would choose to plant them myself.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 6:44PM
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