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Bradford Pear

September 23, 2017


have seen heavily storm damaged Bradford Pear trees cut off to a mere 3 or 4 foot stump that have recovered to become an acceptable replacement for the lost tree in three years, or so.  Is there a preferred shape or profile above that of just a flat topped stump presented to the elements?  A shape more conducive to the health of the tree.



If a tree has been that damaged, it is best to start over and either let it resprout from the soil line or a better approach would be to plant a new tree, preferably not a Bradford pear. Ornamental pears are becoming quite invasive in Arkansas, so I think there are better options.  While it is true that over time a storm ravaged tree does begin to look like a tree again, there is typically so much internal decay that the trunk is not stable and future damage is likely. 


May 27, 2017

QuestionCan you stand one more Bradford pear tree question?  We have a volunteer tree in our back yard that I thought was a crabapple but it is a Bradford pear.  It has 3-4 small trunks and is about 20-25' high.  I plan to have it cut down soon.  After that is done will there be little saplings come up from the roots, and if so how can I finally kill it off?



I commend you for removing the ornamental pear tree.  Once it is cut back, treat the stump that is left with Brush-B-Gon, Brush Killer or Roundup Super Concentrate. Apply the products undiluted for stump treatment. A cheap, 1-inch paint brush works well for this purpose.  Try to apply the herbicide as soon after you cut the tree down to allow for as much uptake as possible. 


April 15, 2017


I have been trimming Bradford Pears and gotten attacked by the numerous "1" to"2" inch thorns on the trees. The sprouts that come up off the exposed roots are also notoriously gifted with thorns. Have our experts on "tree genes" done us in by overstepping nature? Also, there are lots of exposed roots resulting in lots of sprouts. Can I feed the sprouts just a little Round-up without damaging the tree?



Bradford pears are a selection of a Callery pear called Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford'.  Bradford pear trees do not normally have thorns, however their root stock the true Callery pear does have thorns.  The birds are eating the small fruits and sowing them freely.  The result is that hybrid callery seedlings are now blanketing our roadsides, and the resulting trees are loaded with thorns and fruits of various sizes. I wish I could tell you in good conscience to treat the sprouts attached to the mother tree with Round-up, but it can damage the mother tree as well--which would not be a loss in my book! 


 April 8, 2017


I remember you writing a piece about reasons not to plant the Bradford pear tree in Arkansas.  My husband mentioned planting one a few days ago and I was trying to remember the reasons that you do not recommend it as having trouble remembering them.  Please refresh my memory



I am glad you asked before buying one.  There are a whole host of reasons not to plant a Bradford pear.   At maturity they are larger than most people realize--growing up to 40 feet tall and wide.  They have a dense tear-drop shape which makes them susceptible to falling apart in storms or wind.  They flower beautifully but set a copious amount of fruit. The birds eat the fruit and seedling  Callery pears are blanketing our state, making them one of the most invasive plants in Arkansas.  There are much better spring flowering trees, including fringe trees, redbuds, hawthorns, and serviceberry.


July 9, 2016



We have a Bradford Pear tree that is looking bad. It has a number of black leaves forming in the last two weeks and some branches have less green leaves. It was planted in the spring of 1998. I think it is dying. Is there anything I could do to help save it or is it on its last days. The spring blossoms were normal-loaded and beautiful.


While you probably know that Bradford pears are not my favorite plant, there are many gardeners who still love them. It sounds like your tree got hit by fire blight.  By now, the damage that is done is done.  It typically stops spreading when the temperatures warm up.  The tree gets infected during bloom time.  Prune out the damaged branches, and if there a lot of dead wood, you might consider replacing it with a better tree species.  No sprays would give any control this late in the year. 


May 21, 2016

QuestionMy Bradford trees have fire blight.  Is there any cure?


AnswerThere is not really a cure for fire blight. Some years the disease pressure is worse than others.  The only times sprays are the least big effective are during blooming.  Streptomycin or Agristrep sprayed every 3-5 days while the tree is blooming can give you a little preventative coverage.  After bloom, if you see disease symptoms, sprays are totally worthless.  Your only recourse is to prune it out 6-8 inches beneath where you see symptoms.  Sterilize pruning tools in between cuts to prevent mechanical spreading of the disease.


April 2, 2016


QuestionCan you shed some light on what has been blooming along the roadways – all the white I have seen – I know Bradford pears but am unsure of the other that are more shrubs.



The majority of the white you saw the past few weeks were seedling 
Callery pears, the parent plant of the Bradford pear. As you can tell by the amount we had, they are an extremely invasive plant.  Now the redbuds are blooming along with wild plums and cherries, and the dogwoods are too.  


March 19, 2016


I am strongly considering removal of my two Bradford pear trees in my front yard. My problem is that I cannot seem to find good information on replacement trees. My local nursery offers a lot of suggestions until I say that I want native species. I am committed to only planting native trees and want something that runs about the same adult size. Can you suggest any similar trees?



I commend you for replacing your Bradford pears. The trees are blooming all across this state right now and it is pretty upsetting how many escaped seedlings there are, which are blotting out other plants.  I think there are several options.  I love the blackgum tree (Nyssa sylvatica).  It does not produce “gum balls” like our sweetgum trees, but a small drupe or berry. It gets as tall as a Bradford pear but not as wide. It has outstanding red fall color, but does not have showy blooms in the spring.  Other options are the American hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) which gets 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide, similar to a Bradford pear and the Little leaf linden (Tilia cordata ‘Greenspire’).


February 27, 2016


I have two large Bradford Pears that need to be cut back, when is the best time to do heavy pruning? Is February ok? They are already starting to bud already.



You probably won’t like my answer, but if they need really heavy pruning, why not remove them entirely and plant something that fits the size of your landscape?  If I wanted to keep the Bradford pears, I would prune after bloom. The main reason people plant the trees is for their spring blooms and their fall color. Enjoy the spring blooms and then prune.   Bradford butchering goes on all the time, and these trees are becoming quite invasive. They also commonly fall apart in wind storms.

There are much better choices. 

January 23, 2016


I enjoy reading your QA column in the paper. In a recent response to a person with a dying Bradford pear tree you suggested the reader not plant a flowering pear next time, but I see it as an opportunity to educate further and more strongly state the problems associated with this and other invasive varieties.   Our organization, along with many others, spends thousands of dollars each year and thousands of volunteer hours removing alien invasive species from our natural areas. In particular, Callery pear trees (from the Bradford) constantly threaten a wet prairie that we steward. You have a large following and could do a lot to help educate the public with your responses.



Thanks for your response. I could not agree with you more about the invasiveness of Bradford or Callery pears in our state.  I have a list of the top 10 invasive species of plants in Arkansas, and I rank the Pyrus calleryana (of which many ornamental cultivars are available) as one of the top invasives.  Unfortunately, this tree continues to reign in popularity and is commonly sold at all nurseries across the south.  It does have several things which make it popular, including beautiful white flowers in the spring and gorgeous fall color, but the resulting fruit are eaten by the birds, dropped and then seedling Callery pears of all sizes emerge.  Probably one of the most visible signs of these trees is on side of the highway between Alma and Ft. Smith. It is absolutely solid white with Callery pear blooms each spring and red fall foliage.  In addition to being invasive, they also are not strong trees, falling apart quite easily with high winds.  The other top 9 invasives on my list are: running bamboo, privet, Japanese honeysuckle, English ivy, kudzu, mimosa, Vinca major, nandina and wisteria.  Several of these plants are commonly sold as landscape plants and are commonly in use.  Other plants have the potential to become invasive if given the right growing conditions.  


January 9, 2016

QuestionI have attached two pictures of damage to a Bradford pear tree.  It was not physically hit.  Is it a disease or insect problem and what can I do to fix it?  The tree is only two years old.

Image of a damaged Bradford pear


Your tree was wounded at some point, possibly even damaged from the limbs spreading above the point of the wound.  If you look at the bark beneath the wound, you can tell there is damage there as well and the bark will eventually slough off.   Bradford pear trees grow quite quickly and are top-heavy.  This makes them susceptible to easy damage during storms—we see a lot of split trunks or tops broken out.  With your tree, you now have internal decay at the point of the wound which will make the trees even more susceptible to damage.  Once decay begins, there is little you can do to stop the spread. Keeping the area cleaned out will help a bit, but as young as this tree is, it might be a better idea to plant a new tree to take its place—preferably something other than a blooming pear.



November 21, 2015


 I have a pear tree that is about 4-5 years old. It came up between two keifer pears but it doesn’t look like them.  This year the tree had fruit but it was produced in small clusters about the size of grapes.  The coloring is like a pear and they taste pear-like.  What do you think we have?


 Pears that are grown from seeds can be quite diverse. From the sound of your description, my guess is you have a type of Callery pear—which is what all of the ornamental “Bradford” pears are.  They are pears and they do produce fruit, but the resulting fruit can be the size of a bb up to a small crabapple.  I have never thought to taste one, but the birds sure do like them and eat them and drop the seeds, thus spreading them statewide. They have become quite invasive.   The Callery pear is a common root stock for grafting edible and ornamental pears. 


December 2012

QuestionIn the spring of 2010 I planted four Bradford pear trees. They are growing straight up; they don’t seem to be spreading out like I thought they should. Should I cut the tops out of them? If so, when should I do this?


AnswerTopping a tree is a practice that should NEVER be done to a tree you want to keep long-term. When you remove the entire top crown of a tree, you create internal decay in the tree. It will eventually put out more branches and look like a tree, but the damage done internally will last for a lifetime and makes the tree structurally unsound. However, you can remove certain branches and take the top buds off of each branch you leave, without removing the crown, and this will encourage branching. The top bud on each branch has dominance, and left unchecked, will grow straight and taller. Removing the top bud (or even going lower on a branch) will encourage lower buds to grow, which should start to give your tree a fuller top. Pruning done correctly will give you a fuller and healthier tree. Keep in mind that many ornamental pear varieties, particularly Bradford are very susceptible to storm damage, and they often have too many branches which cause them to resemble a lollipop on a stick and they break easily.

September 2012

Question We live in south Pulaski county and have four Bradford pear trees clustered in a large front yard. I discovered three of them blooming, YES blooming, this morning. They look beautiful after turning brown during the drought of July. Thanks for letting me share this.


AnswerWe had an early spring and an early summer, so many spring blooming plants set flower buds for next season early as well. Then we had a miserable summer, so some of these plants went into early dormancy—thus the brown leaves. We finally got some rain and cooler weather, so some of these plants thought they had experienced their dormancy and have started to bloom. I have seen tulip magnolias, the ornamental pears and even a few once a year hydrangeas with flowers again—not the re-blooming types. I would not be surprised if this trend continues. There is nothing you can do to make it stop, so enjoy these extra flowers.

October 2011

QuestionI have 72 Bradford Pear lining my driveway, planted in 1995, have never been trimmed except underneath so you could mow. I have had a little wind damage but so far it has been to the inside and you couldn't tell it. But with winter close, they will never withstand any ice and probably not much more wind. I have a tree service to give me an estimate but this time of year won't be like trimming in the spring. Will they survive the winter cut this late in the year?


AnswerYou are fortunate to have as little damage as you have had. I am also surprised by the sheer number you have. Pruning this late in the year shouldn't hurt a pear tree. However, their two most showy seasons are fall foliage—which they have yet to have; and spring blooms, whose buds are set. If you want to wait until spring to prune, you can, but if you are worried about winter damage, then prune as the foliage sheds. The proper way to prune is to thin out excessive branching—don’t top the trees, nor limb them up like telephone poles. Both of those methods ruin the trees and make them more susceptible to damage. Good luck and if you do lose a few trees, consider replacing with a different tree. Diversity is a good thing in a landscape.

October 2011

QuestionWe have 3 bradford pear trees and one is now in bloom. Is this unusual for this time of year? I have watered all three during our dry summer but this particular one had lost most of its leaves. We are enjoying the blooms but are wondering what it will do in the spring.


AnswerThis errant blooming occurs many years when it has been dry and plants started into an early dormancy. Before they shut down, they set flower buds for the next season. Then we get some rain and cooler weather, then it warms up, and they are fooled into thinking spring has arrived. We see this on some fruit trees, commonly on tulip magnolias and occasionally on forsythia, flowering quince and azaleas. Enjoy the flowers while you have them—there isn't anything you can do to prevent it. Normally it is only a small percentage of the blooms and you should have more in the spring.

October 2010

Question My neighbor recently ran into my Bradford Pear with his truck, knocking off a large section of bark. What can I do to treat the damaged area in hopes of saving the tree? Picture attached.

AnswerOnce a tree is wounded, the wound will always be there, but you can help by cleaning up the wound. Cut off any lose or jagged bark and try to keep it as clean as possible. Time will tell how deep the wound went and how much, if any damage will occur to the top. Have you seen any signs of stress to the top of the tree that is on the side where the damage is? Wound dressings or tree paints are ineffective, the best remedy is a clean wound.

September 2010

QuestionI have attached photos of what I believe to be some kind of pear. As you will notice, the fruit is small about the size of a ping pong ball, but the texture and flesh very much resemble a pear, as does the leaf and limbs. Please let me know what you think that it is. The reason for the inquiry is that there are 3 of these trees along the Arkansas River and the deer like to camp out around them endlessly searching for dropping fruit. If you know what this tree is, could you possibly tell me where I could purchase some of them or if the seed might be viable, Thanks.


AnswerYou will find many seedling pears around the state. The Bradford pear and other ornamental pears are all selections of the Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana). The fruits can run the size of a bb to a crabapple. When the birds drop the seeds, there is a great deal of variability in the resulting seedling pear. While deer may flock to them, and probably birds and squirrels, many of these seedling pears are becoming a nuisance plant--quite invasive. You will also find that many of these seedlings have thorns on them too.

March 2010

QuestionCan you tell me what the tree is that's blooming now along the roadsides. It has white blossoms similar to the pear tree and it blooms around the same time, before dogwoods but after the wild plums. I call it the 'popcorn' tree because that's what it reminds me of, but I would really like to know its true name. Is it a variety of wild pear? Someone told me a ‘popcorn’ tree has white fruit, not flowers.


AnswerI do think it is a wild pear tree that is blooming now. The ornamental ‘Bradford’ pear has been grossly overplanted in the south and seedlings are emerging everywhere. They are all callery pear seedlings—Pyrus calleryana. Flowers are white and fruit size varies from bb to marble or crabapple sized fruits with thorns common on the stems. While they are attractive when in bloom, they are overtaking native vegetation and becoming a bit of a problem in areas of the state. The ‘Popcorn’ tree you are referring to is also considered an invasive plant but only in southern Arkansas and other southern states. It is Sapium sebiferum, also known as Chinese Tallow tree. It has yellowish flowers which produce a white waxy fruit in the fall which looks like a piece of popped popcorn, thus the common name.

January 2010

QuestionI have a beautiful, very large Bradford Pear in my front yard -- about 7 or 8 feet from my house. I'm guessing it is 14 years old since the house was built in 1996. The roots have apparently developed superpowers! They've caused a shift in the sidewalk between the tree and the house and pushed over a brick flowerbed border! There was no evidence of this a year ago -- but now it's significant enough that it could cause someone to fall. Do I need to dig down and find the roots causing the problem and chop them off? Would that kill the tree? Should I chop it down? It is my only tree.


AnswerOrnamental pear trees tend to have an abundance of surface roots which can make walking, mowing, etc. difficult under the tree. The roots have a finite amount of space in which to grow when planted in a home landscape and if there is a sidewalk or flower bed in their path they fill it, sometimes causing the sidewalks to crack or the flower beds to move. If you cut the offending roots, it may cause serious damage to the tree. You don’t know what portion of the tree the offending roots are supporting. Even if there is limited damage, more roots will grow back. I think you are lucky it hasn't happened earlier, since Bradford pears are LARGE trees at maturity and should not be planted any closer to your house than 15 - 20 feet. At 7-8 feet away, I would suspect that the canopy is somewhat lopsided, since the branches can't extend any wider than the house on one side. It is your call about removal. The tree is going to get larger, and the larger the top the larger the root system. You may want to plant a new, different species of tree away from this one, allow it a year or two to get established and then take out the Bradford pear.

September 2006

Question We recently had a storm that damaged our Bradford Pear tree and had to cut it down. We are looking for a replacement tree. Can you tell us what is a good replacement tree that is similar in height and shape? We also want it to be fast growing and provide good shade in the summer. Also, if we completely remove the old stump, how close in position can we safely re-plant a new tree? What is the best time to plant a new tree?

AnswerYou aren't the only one needing to replace a storm damaged ornamental pear tree. They are prone to storm damage. If you simply want the shape and would consider even a slightly taller mature tree, consider a fastigiate hornbeam - Carpinus betulus Fastigiata. The trees have the nice tear-drop shape, but are much more stable, and fairly fast growing. I would try to grind out the stump if you can, or the ground will begin to settle a bit over time as the trunk decays. Planting near the site will not be a problem. The best time to plant a new tree in my opinion, is fall. November is ideal. The ground is still fairly warm, the plants are dormant, and they can begin to establish roots before they need to deal with leaves and new growth. With today’s container grown plants, we can plant year-round, but to make it easier choose fall.

April 2006

QuestionI have a Bradford Pear tree that continually sends up dozens of saplings from its roots. Why is the tree doing this and how can I discourage it from continuing?


AnswerSome trees tend to be prone to suckering more than others. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to stop it. Remove any sprouts this spring, then pay attention late in the season. If any new sprouts have emerged then, summer pruning tends to be more dwarfing or has less potential to re-sprout than early spring pruning. Cut the saplings slightly beneath the soil line, mulch and hope for the best.

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