University of Maryland Extension

Bradford Pear

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Bradford Pear or Callery Pear
Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’

Bradford pear tree
Photo: Dan Tenaglia, Missouriplants.com, Bugwood.org 

About Bradford Pear: An Invasive Species in Maryland

Life cycle/information: Deciduous tree bearing clusters of white flowers in early spring. One of the first spring trees to bloom in Maryland. ‘Bradford’ is a very common cultivar of Callery pear. Its rapid growth, dense foliage, and profusion of flowers made it a highly desirable tree for landscapes and it was planted widely. Forms dense, thorny thickets in wild areas; out-competes and prevents growth of native plants such as Eastern redbud  (Cercis canadensis)  and serviceberry (Amalanchier canadensis).

Invasive Bradford pears in a field
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org


Growth habit: Fast growing and invasive. Trees grow 30’-50’ tall and 20’30’ wide. White flowers consisting of 5 petals grouped in clusters. Leaves are simple, alternate along stems, heart-shaped to oval, finely round-toothed along the edge, shiny and leathery. Bark on mature trees is gray-brown with shallow furrows. New stems are smooth, reddish-brown. Produces thorns. Branch structure makes it very susceptible to breakage in storms. Small round greenish-brown fruits are produced in late-spring/summer.

Bradford pear flowers
Photo: T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org


Reproduction: Seeds are dispersed by birds and small animals that eat the fruits. The original ‘Bradford’ pear was introduced in Maryland and was self-sterile (unable to receive pollen from the same cultivar). Now it cross-pollinates with many other non-sterile callery pears and produces viable seeds.


Bradford pear leaves and fruit
Photo: David Stephens, Bugwood.org

Conditions that favor growth:
Grows in a wide range of soil conditions. Prefers full sun and tolerates partial shade. Very common along highways and roadsides, disturbed woodlands, and old fields. No longer recommended as a street tree.

Bradford-pear-infestation
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org 

What to plant instead: Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Controlling Bradford (Callery) Pear

References

  • Kaufman, Sylvan Ramsey & Wallace Kaufman. 2007. Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species
  • Swearingen J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.
  • Additional Photos: https://www.marylandbiodiversity.com/viewSpecies.php?species=3638

Compiled by Christa Carignan, reviewed by Debra Ricigliano, University of Maryland Extension, 4/2018

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