Bradford Pear Trees in Arkansas
Blooming Bradford pear trees are a sure sign of early spring in Arkansas. While the blooms are lovely, the trees do not weather well over time and are considered invasive.
Bradford pears are poorly formed trees with many limbs originating from a central location. This characteristic creates a weak spot in the tree that makes Bradford pears susceptible to storm damage and greatly reduces the potential life span of the trees.
Major points in the case against Bradfords:
- ‘Bradford’ has a poor crown structure and is prone to breakup. This tree’s life expectancy is about 12-15 years, 20 years under perfect conditions. Don’t get too attached. They are bound to fail you in a strong storm.
- Bradford pears were believed to be sterile upon their introduction to the U.S. What we now know is, while no two Bradford pears will reproduce among themselves, they do cross pollinate with other pear trees to create a wild type hybrid tree. The resulting trees create thorny thickets that have many negative impacts on our native tree populations.
- It's been said, if you want to find a reputable nursery just ask if they sell Bradfords. If they do, move along.
- They smell terrible.
So what can you do about your Bradford pear trees?
- Removing a ‘Bradford’ isn’t necessary unless the tree is damaged or declining. Eliminating healthy trees will have zero impact on the invasive hybrid pear problem we are facing.
- If you do lose a ‘Bradford’, don’t replace it with a new Bradford or any type of “improved” ornamental pear. The Bradford pear cultivar, other P. calleryana cultivars and P. betulifolia or Asian pear, can hybridize and produce fertile fruit, compounding the invasive problem.
What should I plant instead of Bradford pear trees?
- There are better options for landscape trees that are longer living, more suitable for Arkansas, and support wildlife. Work with your county agent to identify better types of trees for your landscape. A few examples would be serviceberry, dogwood, or redbud.