Let’s Ban These Stinking Trees!

April 30, 2015 | By | Comments (11)

Bradford pear

The Tree Centre has been in a tireless campaign against the awful Bradford pear is finally bearing fruit. This tree is now officially banned for planting throughout the Pittsburgh, PA metropolitan area. If Pittsburgh can do it, why can’t we all?

Those of you who don’t read The Grumpy Gardener every week (shame!) probably wonder why I despise such a beautiful tree. Here are four reasons.

1. Take a whiff when the trees are blooming. The flowers smell like fish — all through the neighborhood. If you like this smell, I suggest you mount a fresh salmon over your fireplace after the Bradfords quit blooming.

2. Bradford pears grow into a lovely symmetrical, pyramidal to oval shape. They stay this way for approximately 7 minutes, whereupon a windstorm breaks them in two. This is because all of their main branches emerge from a small point on the trunk, making them very vulnerable to wind. Unbroken trees like those above are very rare.

3. Bradford pear gets way too big for the average residential yard — up to 50 feet tall and nearly as wide. Nothing, including grass, will grow underneath. When you cut it down, suckers will sprout from the roots left behind until the end of time.

4. Bradford pear is actually a selection of callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) that will not pollinate itself to form fruit. Unfortunately, it will cross-pollinate with other callery pears, such as ‘Cleveland Select’ and ‘Aristocrat.’ Then it sets a boatload of tiny, inedible pears filled with seeds. Seedlings armed with vicious thorns germinate everywhere. Look at the woods and roadsides near shopping centers where pears are planted and you’ll see hundreds of thorny pear seedlings.


Amurica, let’s stand with the enlightened people of Pittsburgh to put an end to this plague of pears. Tell your city, county, and state leaders we want the future sale of all callery pears banned. What shall we plant in their place? Grumpy suggests these native trees with pretty spring flowers that don’t stink:

1. Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina)

2. Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) — anthracnose resistant kinds

3. Fringe tree aka grancy greybeard (Chionanthus virginicus)

4. Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

5. Yellow wood (Cladrastis kentuckea)


  1. Cindy S

    Looks like several somebodies in my neighborhood are thinking just like you, Grumpy! As of this week, there have been at least 6 different homes with large piles of Bradford pears sitting on the curb waiting for yard debris pick-up. One house had two trees completely de-limbed and decapitated today. I suspect tomorrow the trunks will be removed and the stumps ground down. Wow! Now if they would just pay attention to your good crape myrtle advice! Oh, well, baby steps….

    May 22, 2015 at 7:43 pm
  2. Peggy Payne

    I love Bradford pears! Lived with a lovely 3-story one for decades and it never broke or did anything untoward.

    May 10, 2015 at 4:44 pm
  3. Molly Bilbow

    Agreed. I hated these things when I lived in my last city and they lined the Main Street by my house for two miles with that stink. Now I have them in my front yard (not on purpose).

    There is something blooming wonderfully all over Peachtree City right now, and I’d give anything to know what it is so I can plant some. Hints? It’s mid May, and it’s not honeysuckle. Think it’s a shrub.

    May 9, 2015 at 11:07 pm
  4. Kerry

    Government should educate not mandate.

    May 8, 2015 at 11:13 am
  5. mfnaughton

    Mention in this weeks digital The Naughton Weekly

    May 5, 2015 at 4:28 am
  6. Clayta

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned that pollen from Bradford Pear trees will put you in the hospital with an allergic reaction no one should have to endure. So sick my first year in Atlanta, unaware of the evils of Bradford pear pollen, I could barely walk across the floor without throwing up. I rejoice every time I hear about Bradford Pear trees being chopped down, as the McDonalds in my town did. All of them – gone. Hooray!

    May 1, 2015 at 11:51 pm
  7. Dea

    When my father-in-law bought their “house on the hill” back in 1979, it had about 20 Bradford Pears on the 3-acre lot. They were beautiful, like Grumpy said, for about 7 minutes. And my FIL hated them. So… Being the decisive modern man he was, he simply cut them down and poisoned the little suckers that came up. Now he’s gone, but so are the BP’s, and the house on the hill has a beautiful lawn with oaks and maples and pines that are a pleasure to see. (And if you want flowers, there are naked ladies in the flower beds.)

    May 1, 2015 at 12:24 pm
  8. Kathleen

    You might be misreading my post & I in turn might misunderstand your’s. My thoughts were just that banning & restricting things usually isn’t the way to go if one values personal freedoms, as many Southerners do. I realize the article isn’t really proposing that & I enjoy the humor.

    May 1, 2015 at 8:39 am
  9. Brynn

    They’re an absolute nightmare here in upstate SC when we get snow/ice, since they drop limbs all over the place. Those leaves make a hot mess of things too.
    I have noticed though that a lot of businesses/homeowners are wising up and getting rid of them, so I’m going to take your list with me and pass that around.

    May 1, 2015 at 6:05 am
  10. mikeinpc833

    ” to the folks Up North ,: ? *gag* 😛
    There’s fewer restrictions, because most of the potential pests can’t hack it long-term , and die. 😉

    April 30, 2015 at 6:10 pm
  11. Kathleen

    Bradford pears have their drawbacks for sure & have definitely been overused in landscaping, but all pear blossoms I’m familiar with smell funky.
    And I’d leave “banning” what to plant in your own yard or community to the folks Up North , homeowners associations, & other groups who’ve given up on exercising basic freedoms. Even the freedom to make bad tree planting decisions.

    April 30, 2015 at 10:53 am

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s