April 2006
Bradford Pear
Kaptain Karl looks at squirrels (and me) out by the pear trees.


Bradford Pear
Growth Chart
Detailed Facts
Julie's Trees

Facts at a Glance
Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford'

Planting date Aug. 1997
Both trees:
Planting height: 9'
Planting trunk: 1.5"

2006 Update
Mid-yard tree:
9-year height: 35'
9-year trunk: 27"

Tree by shed:
9-year height: 34'
9-year trunk: 22"

Mature Height: 30 to 50'
Spread: 20 to 35'
Growth rate: Fast
Form: Pyramidal
Flowers: White
Fall color: Orange
Hardiness zone: 4 - 9
Culture: Sun

Best feature:
Keeps tree service companies in business

Worst problems:
Breaks like a matchstick
Smells like a fish
Invades native spaces
Grows like a wish

Ha! I just made that up!

Do over? No

In Which I Contemplate the Murdering of Trees

Darth Vader Was Living in My Bradford Pear

What a Show!

Spring REALLY Stinks!

Spring Stinks!


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A Tree Grower's Diary
Bradford Pear


Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

Popcorn flowers


Key identifying features.. White flowers in early spring.

Common name.. Bradford Pear

Scientific name.. Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford'

Mature height.. 30 to 50 feet

Mature spread.. 20 to 35 feet

Form.. Pyramidal when immature; rounded when mature.

Fruit.. Pear nut is not edible and does not attract squirrels or birds; inconspicuous, not messy.

Flowers.. Abundant large white, early spring. The blossoms smell like rotten fish. Some years this is worse than other years. Some years it's so bad we can't open the windows or go outside!

Bradford pear leaf

Foliage.. Deciduous; green in summer, orange to burgundy in fall. Leaves are alternate, simple, ovate.

Growth rate.. Fast; more than 2 feet a year. See the Bradford pear growth chart.

Hardiness zones.. 4 through 9

Culture.. Adapts to many soil types, is drought and pollution tolerant and prefers full sun.

Best time to prune.. Any time. All the time.

Of special note.. The tight upward angled branches of this tree are known for breaking just when the tree reaches maturity (15 to 30 years). It is therefore, a short-lived tree.

Umbrella tree

Julie's Comments.. Ever seen an umbrella in the wind? Umbrellas blow away because air can't get through. Same thing happens to Bradford pear tree. Because the branches grow so dense, air can't get through and it blows over. But that's only a small portion of this tree's problems: those branches, because they grow at v-shaped angles, create a tree full of weak wood. The bark grows inside the tree, like an ingrown toenail. When this happens, the tree looses strength and that's why they break so easily. Though I admit this is a beautiful tree from spring to fall and the birds and squirrels love to nest here, I now believe the tree is overused and too problem-prone to plant in a yard setting. Plus, unless you like the smell along the piers of South Street Seaport, the tree often has an unpleasant odor while blossoming.


Planting date.. August 1997. Two trees in burlap ball. 1.5-inch diameter trunk. Height: 9 feet. I bought these trees on the recommendation of the local nursery owner. I was young and naive and figured if anybody knew anything about the "right" trees to buy, it would be the local nursery owner. Boy, was I wrong! Lesson learned: DO YOUR HOMEWORK prior to the shopping trip.

DO OVER?.. No.


See the Bradford pear Journal
See the Bradford pear growth chart
Read the latest Tree Grower's Diary blog entry

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