New Program Gives the Boot to Bradford Pears, Replaces Them with Native Trees
Bradford pears are like a superficially attractive houseguest who shows up at your door with the promise of being hospitable and supportive but quickly becomes an annoying freeloader with repulsive body odor. And now it’s time to give this meddlesome visitor the boot!
NC Wildlife Federation, NC State Extension, NC Urban Forest Council and NC Forest Service have teamed up for Bradford Pear Bounty NC, a program encouraging North Carolinians to remove invasive Bradford pear trees from their communities and replace them with native alternatives.
“Bradford pears threaten the balance of environmental biodiversity by competing with native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and young trees, which negatively impacts the wildlife and pollinators that depend on those native plant and tree species,” said Tara Moore, NCWF’s director of conservation partnerships. “Everyone initially believed Bradford pears wouldn’t spread, but they did – quickly. It wasn’t long before they escaped into our natural forests and began to outcompete native species.”
Wanted: Removed and replaced Bradford pears. Reward: Native trees.
Triad Wild!, NCWF’s Community Wildlife Chapter in Greensboro, is helping organize the pilot event on April 23. Pre-registered participants will take photos of Bradford pear trees they’ve cut down and show the images to event organizers, who will provide them a 3-gallon native tree for each (up to five) they’ve cut down. Urban Forest Council is funding the bulk of native replacement trees with support from additional sponsors, including NC Native Plant Society, Guilford Garden Center, Maxie B’s, Robin Davis and NCWF.
Due to an overwhelming response, the Bradford Pear Bounty Exchange Program registration is on hold. Still, plans are underway for NCWF’s Union County Wildlife Chapter in Monroe and Habitat and Wildlife Keepers (HAWK) chapter in Matthews, to host events later this year.
Bradford pear = Stinky, weak, invasive
Bradford pear, Pyrus calleryana, is a medium-sized, deciduous, invasive tree native to China and Taiwan. For years, urban areas planted them as ornamental trees. Since its introduction, the Bradford pear has escaped cultivation and entered natural areas and disturbed habitats where it spreads rapidly, creating a monoculture and displacing native plants.
Bradford pears have waxy, dark green leaves and five-petaled flowers that grow in clusters on the terminal ends of the tree. The flowers have an awful, musky fragrance in spring. Once pollinated, the flowers develop into abundant fruits, contributing to their dispersal. Despite being an invasive tree, it additionally has weak branches that often break due to high wind, snow or ice, making it a hazardous tree in a landscape and relatively short-lived.
Residents who cut down their Bradford pear should cut as close to the ground as possible and paint the stump with an effective systemic herbicide to kill the root system. Alternatively, you can remove the stump from the ground entirely to help prevent it from re-sprouting.
White fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus, or Carolina silverbell, Halesia diptera, are excellent native trees with similar bloom times and colors to the Bradford pear. However, any native tree would be encouraged as a replacement. Check out our list of recommended native plants: Native Pollinator Trees and Shrubs and Native Pollinator Perennial and Annual Flowers.
Help give Bradford pears the boot!
Donate today to support NC Bradford Pear Bounty’s pilot program in Greensboro (the program’s first tree exchange event) and upcoming events statewide.