What Is a Bradford Pear Tree?

A Bradford pear's flowers look sweet, but some people don't like their smell.
A Bradford pear's flowers look sweet, but some people don't like their smell. (Image: Bradford pear bloom image by k9dg from Fotolia.com)

The Bradford pear tree is an ornamental tree usually used in landscaping. It is considered a good “street tree” because of its ability to withstand traffic fumes and other pollution. The fruits it produces are inedible.

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Bradford pear is known botanically as a cultivar of Pyrus calleryana. It is sometimes called Callery pear.


The tree grows up to 40 feet tall and forms a pyramid shape upon maturity. Its leaves reach 2 to 3 inches in length and are shiny with a pronounced center vein. Before its foliage emerges in the spring, the Bradford pear produces lovely white flowers, which unfortunately smell rank. Its nonedible fruits are a 1/2-inch in diameter and greenish brown.


Pyrus calleryana trees are native to China and Korea. In the 1960s the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed the "Bradford" cultivar to be sold commercially. It was named in honor of the horticulturalist F. C. Bradford, who helped develop Pyrus calleryana seeds from China into the cultivar eventually introduced to the Western hemisphere. Since then, city planners and homeowners alike have made use of the handsome ornamental.


Some Bradford pear cultivars are invasive in the eastern United States. Homeowners may find the trees too fragile; limbs and even parts of the trunk break easily during storms. Many people find the smell of the tree during flowering season unpleasant.


Other ornamental pear cultivars include "Cleveland Select." Ornamental plum and flowering crabapple possess similar advantages to the Bradford pear, but aren’t as fragile.


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