Say NO to Bradford Pear Tyranny

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hundreds of Bradford pears in bloom

Main St. Spindale along the Thermal Belt Rail Trail, Bradford Pears as far as the eye can see!

Native to Asia, the Bradford pear, a cultivar of Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana), was introduced into the US in 1919 to be a tidy, thornless and sterile ornamental tree with a symmetrical shape and lush glossy foliage. Nurseries and homeowners loved them and planted them in the millions. They are up and down our Main St and on our school grounds.

The past 100 years has shown that the Bradford Pear cons far outweigh its pros. Not only does the Bradford pear have very weak branching angles that split off from the tree during storm events, the blossoms smell of fish and worst of all, it does indeed produce invasive offspring when other varieties of Callery Pear pollinate it. Many tractor owners tell me the thorns can burst a tire.

These offspring have spread all along NC roadsides and into our forests, out competing our native trees, such as dogwood, serviceberry, redbud and viburnum. There are zero caterpillars that feed on these invasive pears, so their very existence is creating a food desert for our spring birds who depend on caterpillars in the thousands to rear baby broods. While North Carolina doesn’t yet have a ban on Bradford pear, other states, like South Carolina and Ohio, have announced bans.

Ways you can identify these aggressors and distinguish them from our wild cherries: the pear descendants have incredible thorns, their spring flowers are in clustered balls and stink, their leaves are rounded with scalloped margins and the bark is light with ridges. The wild cherries will have longer serrated leaves, smooth and sometimes flakey darker bark, flowers that don’t stink, and no thorns. Now, today, is the easiest time of year to notice where the offspring are on your property, and you probably know if you have one of the original Bradford Pear parent trees causing the problem.

The best course of action is to remove and replace them with a caterpillar and pollinator- supporting NC native. Consider oak, redbud, dogwood, persimmon, fringe tree, hickory. In the smaller shrub category choose from Fothergilla, beautyberry, witchhazel, native deciduous azalea and more. You are spoilt for choice!

If all this news has not incentivized you to take these aggressors out, you can register now for Rutherford County’s Bradford Bounty! We hosted a successful event last October and are planning another this spring!

This is how it works: register at (pre-registration is required!), snap a photo of the pear tree alive, have the tree cut down (homeowner’s responsibility) and snap a photo of the fallen tree, bring photos to our swap event on Saturday April 6 in the parking lot of the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Spindale to pick up your choice of available native trees. (Swap ratio of one to one, up to 5 trees.)

Please note that our spring event in April will happen at a different location: Our office at 193 Callahan Koon Rd in Spindale beside the Rutherford Co Senior Center

Pre-registering is key! TreeBountyNC