Spring Blooms

Spring Blooms

Typical Bradford Pear plantings on a residential street.

Typical Bradford Pear plantings on a residential street.

 

It’s that time of year again when you drive down the road and you might think, “How pretty!”  All of the “pretty” white flowering trees all along our road sides and neighborhoods are more than likely the Bradford Pear, Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’.

The 1980’s were an important beginning for the Bradford pear.  It gained widespread popularity for many reasons including its shape, disease resistance and showy white flowers.  It was planted along new development roadways and throughout many commercial and residential landscapes.  The more popular they became, the more they appeared in places where we hadn’t intentionally planted them.  In areas that weren’t mowed or maintained to eliminate the spread of this invasive species, we arrived where we are today: a perpetuating monoculture along our roadways and woodland edges where we never anticipated they would be.

Invasive Bradford Pear trees in an industrial area of Burtonsville, MD. Invasive trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, grasses, and vines eliminate the opportunity for native species to thrive.

Invasive Bradford Pear trees in an industrial area of Burtonsville, MD.

Since it’s development at the USDA Plant Introduction Station in Glenn Dale, MD, we’ve learned a lot about the Bradford Pear.  We now know that the Bradford Pear is structurally compromised consisting of included bark which means it essentially peels apart limb by limb, sometimes splits in half, other times it fails at the base altogether.  To manage the remaining landscape Bradford’s we’ve resorted to performing dramatic reduction cuts in order to keep them somewhat intact.

 

One of the most interesting Bradford Pear failures observed. Photo courtesy of Russ Warnock.

One of the most interesting Bradford Pear failures observed. Photo courtesy of Russ Warnock.

What’s the lesson in all of this? We need to do a better job as an industry including arborists, landscape architects, nurserymen, and retail nursery centers in educating our clients, and ourselves, as to what we are utilizing in the landscape.  There’s always going to be a new introduction that takes the market by storm.  Until we fully understand the plant material we are introducing into the landscape we need to be prepared for the potential horticultural catastrophic repercussions that could occur due to our choices and recognize the toll that it takes on the landscape .