Information About Bradford Pear Trees (With Pictures)
Many Bradford Pear trees, which were first introduced commercially by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1963, are now grown in landscapes far and wide due to their decorative as well as fast-growing attributes. The photos in this article were all taken by me, and they show what this tree looks like in the springtime in Houston, Texas, where I live.
The white blossom-laden branches that envelop these trees prior to any leaves being unfurled remind me of snow-covered trees that are commonly seen in northern climates in the wintertime.
While we typically do not experience snow in Houston, the white and showy blossoms bring me back to the days of my youth, as I spent my first 13 years in the Wisconsin countryside. Snow was abundant in the winter up there!
Walking through our neighborhood last spring, I decided to take my camera and capture some photographs of the many Bradford Pear trees that are utilized in home landscaping designs.
While these relatively small trees during the summer blend into the green surroundings as other flowering plants and shrubs are regaling us with their colorful vestments, the Bradford Pear is hard to ignore as it is one of the first to blossom each spring.
The deciduous branches come into flower, profusely blanketed with dazzling white blossoms, inviting passersby to gaze upon its beauty.
In the fall season, it can be counted upon to adorn those same home landscapes with striking hues of red, orange, yellow, and other colors prior to shedding those vibrantly tinged leaves and becoming dormant for the winter months.
In the western region of Houston where we now live, much of the land used to be dedicated to growing rice—and there are areas further out that are still cultivated for that purpose. Rice fields are generally flat areas of ground that can be irrigated and even flooded with water.
Needless to say, this is not topography that would normally have a profusion of trees growing, and any that might have sprung up would have been removed if it interfered with rice farming.
As subdivisions were developed and started swallowing up those rice fields, the new dwellings would all have been mostly devoid of any shade trees. While all different types were eventually planted, oftentimes fast-growing ones were desired for more instant gratification in residential landscape design.
Here is where Bradford Pear trees and other fast-growing varieties came into play.
Not only could this type provide shade in a more rapid manner often attaining a height of 15 feet in about five years, it also had the ornamental effect already described.
In addition, it is not an overly large specimen, which makes it more suitable for smaller city lots. Growing to an average height of around 50 feet with perhaps around a 25- to 30-foot spread, it became a tree of choice for many reasons.
Commonly found growing in zones from 5 to 9 and also disease resistant, this sounds like a perfect choice to plant. Doesn't it sound perfect? There are, however, a few downsides to growing them.
Most fast-growing trees are generally not as long-lived as other slower growing types. Bradford Pear trees can get to be between 25 to 30 years of age if well tended.
Pruning will not only keep them aesthetically looking better but will preserve them from their main enemy, that of wind or ice storms lopping off major branches.
The growth habit of this tree left untended and allowed to grow naturally is the prime reason why people become disenchanted with this otherwise showy and ornamental beauty.
It grows with so many upright and compact branches in the center that it literally ends up with weak limbs and needs the help of human hands to do a little thinning out of these branches with careful pruning.
Sometimes, large branches come crashing down, disfiguring the tree (but hopefully hurting nothing or no one underneath). For people who did not know about or who ignored pruning, this sudden event forces them to decide what next to do. Keep the tree? Start pruning it hoping to save it? Or bear the work and/or expense of removing it?
That happened to what was a beautiful specimen in the front yard next to what used to be my mother's house. One day when driving over there, I noticed several huge branches had fallen to the ground. We had endured quite a severe windstorm the night before, and this was the sad result.
Those former neighbors ultimately had the tree removed, as an entire side of it was left with a gaping hole. It might have eventually filled in, but they were obviously not willing to work with it and take the time to see if it could once again take on a pleasing shape.
Properly pruning these trees when they are small, and each year looking at and addressing the pruning in an ongoing manner, will help preserve these decorative specimens.
A native of China and Korea, the Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) is the progenitor of the most commonly cultivated Bradford Pear tree.
There are other varieties that might offer some advantages and can be sought through local nurseries or mail order sites.
We see entire boulevards in some areas of Houston planted with Bradford Pear trees. They are kept nicely pruned and are beautiful to enjoy viewing during every season of the year.
Since our present yard and garden has no space to plant additional trees, my husband and I will simply enjoy these magnificent Bradford Pear trees wherever we get to see them. Soon we will be seeing the resplendent fall colors and then after the short months of winter we will once again be dazzled by their snowy white branches bearing blossoms next spring.
Now that you are better acquainted with not only some pictures of the Bradford Pear and know some of the pros and cons of using these fast-growing decorative trees for landscape design, are you tempted to use them in your home or commercial garden space?
Dazzling Fall ColorsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Do you have or wish to plant a Bradford Pear tree in your garden?
Video Explains Pros and Cons
Questions & Answers
If the Bradford Pear tree is so bad why does everyone buy it?
Simply put it is a pretty tree bearing profuse blossoms in the spring and colored leaves in the fall. Sometimes people do not realize the problems when introducing new species until after the fact.
Think of kudzu brought here from parts of Asia and the Pacific islands where it originated. It is a fast growing invasive vine that is killing plants, shrubs and even trees because of the heavy shade that it creates. It is a real problem in parts of our country. Whoever first brought it here did not know of the damage it would cause to the environment.Helpful 5
I have a 9-year-old pear tree which was never properly pruned. How should I go about pruning it?
Bradford Pear Trees are not ones that live a long time so you probably won't have them that much longer no matter what you do. If you do not care about them that much, I would suggest removing the worst looking of the trees right now.
As to saving some of them, pruning is absolutely necessary. I recommend watching the video at the bottom of this post.
If the branches are already as large and growing close together as in the video and from what you wrote, then removing the outer ones is an excellent place to start the pruning process. Removing some branches from the center of the tree would also be beneficial, but if they are already large, it will not be as aesthetically pleasing as it would have been if the trees had been trimmed from the start. Good luck!
My Bradford tree is sending out saplings everywhere. In this way, it is very invasive. Is there any way to stop these saplings? Are they a sign that the tree is dying? Although it is healthy looking, I would not recommend planting one of these trees.
Other than digging out the saplings there is no way to prevent the Bradford Pear Tree from replicating itself. That is one of the problems with this tree along with its weak branches and relatively short life compared to other trees. It can be very invasive and can choke out native species in certain areas. You are correct with your recommendation about choosing different types of trees to plant.
My beloved Bradford is thirty-one-years-old. It is May, and there are lots of dead leaves about. Is it dying? How can I tell?
You are lucky that your Bradford Pear tree has lived to that age. Many die anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five years of age as they are not long-lived trees. They have weak roots as well as branches that often break in wind storms. If the leaves on your tree are dying, you may wish to take a sharp knife and cut into the branch leading to the leaves. If you are unable to see any sign of life there (some green below the bark), you might wish to cut back that lifeless branch. Of course, if the entire tree is dying there is not much that can be done at this point to revive it.
I live in Cedar Hill, Texas and the Bradford trees are blooming in red. Why? They have been doing that for 19 years and this is the time of year that they bloom.
I know of no Bradford pear trees that bloom in red. They all have white blossoms. There are a number of other trees in Texas that have red to pink blossoms or even red seed pods. Some of them include the Japanese apricot, red maple, southern crabapple, desert willow or even an Arapaho crape myrtle tree. I would suggest taking a blossom and leaf to a good nursery or agricultural center to get your tree identified. If there is a master gardener program in your area you might also check with them.Helpful 1
© 2010 Peggy Woods