Home / Gardening / Garden Q&A: Bradford pears should now be considered an invasive trash tree

Garden Q&A: Bradford pears should now be considered an invasive trash tree

Please explain the “curse” of the Bradford pears. Isn’t that the original species of the white blooming trees everyone thinks are wonderful every spring? We should stop planting them anymore.

From wonder tree to weed in 20 years must be some kind of record. Developed as a sterile hybrid, the Bradford’s collapsing branch structure led to the introduction of more hybrids (some still being sold). Cross-pollination resulted in fertile offspring with berry-size fertile fruit. These “Bradford” pears spread rapidly, displacing natives and disrupting natural succession, so native plants needed by wildlife are crowded out. Seedlings can grow thorns, and flowers often smell horrible. All so-called Bradfords are a variety of callery pear, an Asian species. It was known from the beginning that callery pears are highly aggressive. Obviously, the “sterile” idea proved disastrous. Callery pears have taken over thousands of acres of native plants — wild and parkland — and are spreading faster than ever, a foreign species that should now be considered an invasive trash tree.

We’re glad you asked and hope you pass along this information. Getting out the word is hard but important. The highway department is tackling miles of Bradfords lining our roads, but private and commercial land owners need to step up. Any ornamental pear should not be planted, all seedlings should be eradicated and mature trees phased out.

Is there anything wrong with a moss instead of grass yard? We live in a wooded area and have tried to grow grass, but have given up and let moss take over in the side and back yards (grass grows okay in the front). It seems good, since it uses less water and fertilizer.

Moss is considered a valuable and desirable ground,cover in many cultures and is starting to catch on in the U.S. Yes, by all means grow and enjoy your moss. There are many species of moss, so it can be fun to see which ones show up. Avoid applying lime. Moss moves in when grass dies out because of lack of sunlight, overly wet soil, low pH (acid) soil, soil compaction and low fertility. You are smart not to waste huge amounts of time, effort and money on an impossible site. Grass does tolerate foot traffic better than moss, but you still have your front lawn.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.