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About Bradford Pear Trees (With Pictures)

Updated on March 2, 2017
Peggy W profile image

My grandpa loved gardening. I learned much from him. To this day I enjoy puttering around in our garden growing plants for beauty & food.

Close-up of Bradford Pear Tree blossoms
Close-up of Bradford Pear Tree blossoms | Source

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 attributes of being fast growing as well as decorative specimens. The pictures taken by me show what they look like in the Spring of the year in Houston, Texas.

The white blossom laden branches which envelop these Bradford Pears prior to any leaves being unfurled remind me of snow covered trees that are commonly seen in northern climates.

While we typically do not experience snow in Houston the white and showy blossoms return me in memory to the days of my youth when I spent the first 13 years of life in the countryside of Wisconsin. 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 ones that were 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 Tree 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 of the year 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 vibrant tinged leaves and becoming dormant for the winter months.

Neighborhood Bradford Pear Tree in all its Spring Glory
Neighborhood Bradford Pear Tree in all its Spring Glory | Source

Fast Growing Specimens

In the western region of Houston where we now live much of this land used to be dedicated to growing rice and there are still 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 harvesting the rice.

As subdivisions were developed and started swallowing up those rice fields, the new dwellings would all have been mostly devoid of any shade trees and while all different types were eventually planted, oftentimes fast growing ones were desired for more instant gratification in residential landscape design.

Bradford Pear blossoms against a deep blue clear sky
Bradford Pear blossoms against a deep blue clear sky | Source

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 5 years, it also had the ornamental effect already described.

Added to those attributes it is not an overly large specimen thereby being suited to smaller city lots. Growing to an average height of around 50 feet with perhaps around 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.

Bradford Pear trees are nice sized for city lots.
Bradford Pear trees are nice sized for city lots. | Source

Video explaining pros and cons...

Pruning Considerations

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 the Bradford Pear 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.

When large branches come crashing down disfiguring the tree and hopefully hurting nothing or no-one underneath that sudden event, people who did not know or otherwise ignored how these trees should be pruned have to decide what next to do. Keep the tree? Start pruning it hoping to save it, or should they bear the work and/or expense of removing it?

Bradford Pear trees in bloom in the Spring of the year.
Bradford Pear trees in bloom in the Spring of the year. | Source
Bradford Pear Tree Blossoms
Bradford Pear Tree Blossoms | Source

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 Bradford Pear Trees when they are small and each year looking at and addressing the pruning in an ongoing manner will help preserve these decorative specimens.

Close-up of Bradford Pear Tree blossoms

Notice the bee amidst the blossoms?
Notice the bee amidst the blossoms? | Source

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 Colors

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bradford Pear tree in the fall Bradford pear tree in the FallBradford Pear tree showing Fall colors
Bradford Pear tree in the fall
Bradford Pear tree in the fall | Source
Bradford pear tree in the Fall
Bradford pear tree in the Fall | Source
Bradford Pear tree showing Fall colors
Bradford Pear tree showing Fall colors | Source

Do you have or wish to plant a Bradford Pear tree in your garden?

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© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are most welcomed!

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Shelly,

      I would never plant one of these Bradford Pear Trees after learning about how vulnerable to branches breaking off and also their short lives. You and others are well versed it seems on their liabilities. Thanks for your comment.

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      Shelly 2 months ago

      Nuance plant - flawed hybrid product of 1950-60's (think jello salads). It is not native and very prone to large branches splitting /shearing when ~15 yo (and too large for ready removal). Avoid at all costs.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 13 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi JanQ,

      I saw what happened with a tree next door to my mother's old home. It did split right down the middle in a storm. So they can be a hazard as you mentioned. Too bad they are so pretty. People would be less tempted to plant them. I did not realize that they could become invasive until reading your and another person's comments. Thanks!

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      JanQ 13 months ago

      Bradford Pears are TERRIBLE and DANGEROUS trees. Their branch structure is extremely dangerous and many of these trees literally split in half during storms and high winds. This causes them to be a huge liability for homeowners. They are also an invasive species in the Eastern and Midwest regions of the U.S. Birds spread the seeds and these trees have taken over natural woodland - choking out natural species like oak and maple, and are a plague for farmers, where they grow quickly in fields. Please do some research on this horrible tree before planting one! There are so many better and safer alternatives!!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 14 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Debbie,

      We are not supposed to insert links into the comment box but here is what you wrote:

      Bradford pear trees, as much as you like them, happen to be a highly invasive non-native tree. While they might have berries the fruits aren't edible for humans and are not good nutrition for birds. Please plant natives that are just as beautiful, are better for the environment, won't become invasive and have berries that are more complete nutrition for birds.

      That is good information to know and I appreciate your input on this! Thanks!

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