Thursday, July 29, 2021

Ooops! They did it again.


Clemson News, published by the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Public Service and Agriculture announced “South Carolina will become only the second state in the United States to ban the nursery sale of Bradford pear trees and any other pear trees grown on the commonly used Pyrus calleryana rootstock.” This does not mean that it will be illegal to own them, but the authorities would be thrilled if you would destroy any in your landscape.


“It has all the characteristics of a noxious weed,” said David Coyle, assistant professor of Forest Health and Invasive Species at Clemson.

“Bradford pears were once touted as sterile, but it turns out that if pollen from any other Pyrus species gets into Bradford pear flowers, the trees can make viable seeds. Those seeds are then eaten by birds and other animals and spread across the Southeastern landscape, contributing directly to one of the worst invasive plant species in the region — the Callery pear.”

It’s about time. I’ve never liked them anyway. The angles at which the limbs grow upward make them prone to splitting, and the flowers stink. None of the other Callery varieties promoted for their improvements over the ‘Bradford’ have been any better. Though its usefulness is short-lived, 'Bradford' is a curse that keeps on giving. So, yes, it’s time for them to go. Past time, in fact.

But, wait. There’s something else you should know. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, The New York Times, and even Lady Bird Johnson promoted 'Bradford' pear. It was released for commercial use by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January 1960 and distributed to nurseries from New York to California. Think about that when you’re driving through the countryside and seeing them dominating the landscape.

The USDA duly noted, “The Bradford will not, under most conditions, fruit when planted—

  • More than 200 feet from pear trees of any kind.
  • Next to other Bradfords, the common pear (Pyrus communis), or the Hansen pear {P. sp. Hansen).

“The tree will fruit, however, when planted within 200 feet of other selections of the Callery pear tree or such rarely used minor species as the Manchurian pear {P. sp. Manchurian) or the Forostovsky pear.”

Did anyone consider that pollination vectors such as wind and insects can travel farther than 200 feet, and that thousands of homeowners and landscapers would line their driveways and streets with them?

Should we be surprised? This is the government agency that promoted Kudzu as a “wonder plant” for erosion control and even for shade, and Bahia grass for pastures and lawns. Then 'Bradford' was touted. Ooops! They did it again.

Has the USDA benefited agriculture? Sure it has, but it’s difficult for me to remember any particular instance when I see ‘Bradford’ et al, Kudzu vines and Bahia grass infesting the country.

Return to

No comments: