History of the Bradford Pear

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Rand
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History of the Bradford Pear

Post by Rand » Sun Sep 30, 2018 12:05 pm

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the callery pear was the urban planner's gift from above. A seedling selection named Bradford was cloned by the gazillion to become the ubiquitous street tree of America's postwar suburban expansion.

The Bradford pear seemed to leap from an architect's idealized rendering. But in this case, reality outshone the artist's vision. It was upright and symmetric in silhouette. It exploded with white flowers when we most needed it, in early spring. Its glossy green leaves shimmered coolly in the summer heat, and in the fall, its foliage turned crimson, maroon and orange - a perfect New England study in autumnal color almost everywhere it grew. And it grew everywhere. It flourished in poor soil, wet or dry, acidic or alkaline. It shrugged off pests and diseases, it didn't drop messy fruit like mulberries or crab apples. Millions of Bradford pears would be planted from California to Massachusetts and would come to signal the dream and aspirations of postwar suburbia. Like the cookie-cutter suburbs themselves, the Bradford pear would embody that quintessentially American idea of the goodness of mass-produced uniformity.

But like a comic book supervillain who had started off good, the Bradford pear crossed over to something darker. It turned from thornless to spiky, limber to brittle, chaste to promiscuous, tame to feral. Most of all, it became invasive. It is now an ecological marauder destined to continue its spread for decades, long after those suburban tract houses have faded away. Generations yet to be born will come to know this tree and learn to hate it.
https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/scienti ... re-1918129

I remember when I was in grade school when they planted a Bradford pear on the school grounds for Arbor day they explained that the trees were sterile. Well even in high school I noticed fruit on the tree and just assumed the seeds were sterile. Yeah, I guess not.

Here in Columbus I noticed a lot of young ones growing in the waste spaces on the edge of town and in the local metropark. At some point ~2010 someone got the memo in the park system, and concerted attempt was made to eliminate them from the open meadows and prairies in the park. I think they use topical herbicide application, because every so often one will drop dead in the middle of the summer, and they've pretty well vanished for now.

Kind of a shame, because they do look very nice when they bloom in the spring.

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pattyjenkins1
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Re: History of the Bradford Pear

Post by pattyjenkins1 » Mon Oct 01, 2018 8:37 am

The trees look nice, but the flowers smell terrible, and yes, then the branches start breaking off and you have one ugly mess. Bradford pear trees are so awful that they are even exempt from the Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance, which requires a permit to remove almost every other species (exceptions include Ailanthus ["Tree of Heaven"]) from private property.
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Rand
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Re: History of the Bradford Pear

Post by Rand » Mon Oct 01, 2018 3:26 pm

pattyjenkins1 wrote:The trees look nice, but the flowers smell terrible, and yes, then the branches start breaking off and you have one ugly mess.
Ice and wet snow are pretty common here. Roughly every 2-3 years there is one big enough to cause a lot of tree breakage, and the BP's are always high on the casualty list. I saw one get broken down to a single stub ~10 years ago, and the owner let the thing go. It's miraculously grown back to its former size and form. We'll see how it fairs in the future.
Bradford pear trees are so awful that they are even exempt from the Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance, which requires a permit to remove almost every other species (exceptions include Ailanthus ["Tree of Heaven"]) from private property.
Patty
At one point the BP was the official tree of Westerville (one of the attached burbs of Columbus). They had several in front of their local government buildings that were quite old. Roughly 1' in diameter. I think they were still intact at such a large size because it was a small square, pretty tightly enclosed by buildings on 3 sides. That was back in the early 00's, be interesting if that is still the case.

I wonder how much the climate affects their invasiveness. Volunteers are common around here, but don't form impenetrable thickets like the honeysuckle does. Well... not yet anyway.

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