I admit that when spring-time comes — if it ever comes, that is — I’m a sucker for flowering trees. In this part of the country, that most likely means pear trees, bursting with delicate white flowers. In many suburban neighborhoods, landscapers have long been planting Bradford pear trees as ornamental touches, almost as a matter of course.
But is planting so many pear trees a good idea?
This guy is one of an increasing number of people who argue that it isn’t a good idea, and we’ve got to stop. He notes that while pear trees are very tempting when you’re trying to turn what used to be a farm field into something that looks more like an attractive neighborhood — because they grow incredibly quickly, and flower besides — they aren’t a viable long-term solutions for any yard. Bradford pears have one of the weakest branch structures of any tree, with a trunk that splits into a V, besides. The trees grow like Topsy, to be sure, but ultimately a strong storm will come along and the trees will break apart. That’s exactly what happened to the pear trees in our old house in New Albany. We were just lucky that the limbs crashed into the yard, rather than knocking down part of the house.
But apparently there’s more to it than just having to cut down a split tree and figure out what to do with the stump. Bradford pears were supposed to be sterile, but they actually aren’t. They’ve cross-pollinated with other varieties of pear trees, apparently causing a proliferation of pears in some neighborhoods — and, in so doing, they are crowding out other, native trees that might not have those fine blossoms, but are sturdier are more suited to the environment. Even worse, some of the pears being produced as a result of the cross-pollination are thorny monstrosities that are almost impossible to get rid of. That’s why Ohio has put Bradford pears on the list of invasive species that can’t be sold in the Buckeye State.
So if you’re going to do some landscaping, consider whether you really want to plant that Bradford pear, or for that matter any ornamental pear tree. It turns out that those white flowers come at too high a price.