Bradford pears: The tree that nobody loves

The once loved, and now hated, Bradford pear tree. PHOTO COURTESY CLEMSON EXTENSION SERVICE

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

How disliked is the Bradford pear tree, like the ones surrounding the Darlington County Courthouse for the past 40-some years? So disliked that there’s a price on its head … or bark. In October, the Clemson Extension Service held an event at Sandhill Research and Education Center in Columbia where people could collect what amounted to a bounty for proving they’d killed a Bradford pear. (The Extension Service considers it “an invasive species” harmful to native trees.) All you had to do was whack a Bradford pear on your property, take a photo to show it had been removed, and Clemson Extension would give you up to five different types of trees as a replacement. More “bounty” events are planned, and starting in 2024, South Carolina is going to ban the sale of baby Bradfords at nurseries in the state. The staff of Southern Living magazine created a YouTube video called “Why Bradford Pears Are the Worst Tree.” Their reasons: Smelly flowers, too big, too shady and “structurally unstable,” meaning the limbs tend to break in storms. Last month, The New York Times sent a reporter to South Carolina to cover the state’s battles against the Bradford pear. The headline on the story said: “Tree That Was Once the Suburban Ideal Has Morphed Into an Unstoppable Villain.” A Columbia College professor of biology and the environment a few years ago labeled the Bradford flowers’ smell “unpleasant. It’s almost a painful smell, almost. It kind of gets in the back of your sinuses and makes you want to clear it out.” Others have compared it to “wet dogs” and “rotting fish.”

Author: Stephan Drew

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