Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’)

The most common cultivar of Callery pear, this commercially available deciduous tree is originally from East Asia. It was imported to the US by the Department of Agriculture in the 1960s, as its affordability, easy transportation, and quick growth made it an ideal ornamental landscape tree. It has spread across the US and remains widely planted for its early spring blooms of flashy white flowers, though these are known to produce a pungent smell similar to rotting fish. Further, as they occur earlier than the blooms of many native species, this prolific cultivar uses up essential resources.

Though Callery pear only grows up to about 25 feet, the Bradford cultivar tends to grow much taller with weak limbs that tend to break easily during storms. Though short-lived, rarely lasting more than 20 years, this pear spreads easily and crowds out native trees. Moreover, it holds no value to native wildlife and creates dense shade that blocks understory plants from receiving necessary sunlight. Multiple states in the eastern and western US consider it invasive, though Massachusetts is not among them. To support native ecosystems, consider planting alternatives such as flowering dogwood, downy shadbush, American hornbeam, or choke cherry.