About 'Bradford' pear or callery pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford')
Life cycle and background
No longer a recommended tree for planting, it is highly invasive.
A 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 a 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 the growth of native plants such as Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) and serviceberry (Amalanchier canadensis).
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.
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.
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.
What to plant instead
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
Controlling Bradford (Callery) pear
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.
Compiled by Christa Carignan, reviewed by Debra Ricigliano, University of Maryland Extension, 4/2018
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