Cut Down Your Bradford Pear Tree – Choose Native Trees And Shrubs

Cut Down Your Bradford Pear Tree

I never thought I’d write a passionate post about why you should immediately cut down any Bradford Pear trees… but here we are.




Bradford pears are a variety of a pear native to Korea and China, Pyrus calleryana, which was first introduced to Western horticulture in 1908. The seedling which later became Pyrus calleryana “Bradford” was brought from Nanking in 1919, but it wasn’t until 1963 that the USDA introduced the variety commercially.




This flowering tree was assumed to be sterile (spoiler alert- it isn’t!) and was known for its weak branch structure. They have a lifespan of only 20-25 years, as anyone who has seen these trees in an ice storm can attest.




Bradford pear trees are often used for landscaping aesthetics. The trees offer a symmetrical shape and produce white flowers which adds beauty to yards. Despite the attractive appeal however, they also pose problems for many homeowners. The Bradford pear has been called a “scourge,” a “weed” and a “monster.”Once the trees begin to bloom, the flowers emit a fishy smell, and as the fruits begin to form, they fall and create messes. The fruit can also pose a hazard for wildlife because the poison inside can cause birds and other small animals to become sick if consumed. Eating large amounts of the seeds can also cause death.

However, the fact that Bradford pear trees are short lived and dangerous is not the real reason that these trees are such a disaster. The problem is that these trees are in fact not sterile. No two Bradford pears will ever reproduce among themselves, but they do cross pollinate with every other pear tree out there, including the Cleveland Select pear trees that were meant to be the salvation of flowering pears everywhere. The introduction of other pear varieties has compounded the problem to the point where it is almost too late to rectify.

Because of the cross pollination problem, pear trees have now proliferated exponentially across our environment. And, to make matters worse, the evil offspring has reverted to the ancient Chinese Callery pears which form impenetrable thorny thickets that choke out the life out of pines, dogwoods, maples, redbuds, oaks, hickories, etc.

Municipal tree departments have turned squarely against the pear because of its tendency to shed branches onto sidewalks and power lines, especially when not pruned properly during its early years. Some cities, including Pittsburgh and Lexington, Ky., have banned new plantings of Bradford pear; others are removing the trees. Prince George’s County finally capitulated in 2009 and named the (native) willow oak its new official tree.

All things considered, the pear’s crimes start to seem pretty minor. We certainly shouldn’t plant more Bradford pears. But if we’re going to spend time and money righting past environmental wrongs, there are far more important battles to fight than one against a lousy tree.

How to Cut Them Down

If you are considering planting trees in your yard, please choose other options. If you already have some of these in your yard, consider cutting them down and replacing with something less harmful.

Unfortunately, this won’t be the easiest tree to eliminate. Cutting it down is the first step, but getting rid of it completely requires some extra effort. Now is a great time of year to do this before they bloom in the spring and Fall is a great time to plant new trees.

Here’s What to Do

  • Cut down the tree.
  • Grind out the root.
  • Prepare for battle: These trees don’t give up easily and they will send out hundreds of suckers, or shoots, from the roots for up to two years after you cut it down until the roots finally give up and die.
  • During this time, you can do things like: drill holes in the root and pack salt into it (this will help a little).
  • Mow often so the sprouts can’t get big or go to seed.
  • If grass isn’t growing anyway, consider covering with black plastic to choke out the roots and then re-seeding once the roots are gone.
  • Replace the stinky Bradford Pear tree with a beneficial and equally beautiful tree (suggestions below).

If you ever go visit a plant nursery and want to know if it is a good nursery or not, ask if they sell Bradford pears. All reputable nurseries are well aware of the evils of this tree, and refuse to sell them. Don’t let someone talk you into a Cleveland Select or other pear tree, all varieties of “ornamental” pear trees are equally bad.

Save the world. Eliminate Bradford pear trees.

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Source: wellnessmama, nytimes