Bradford Pears - and what we've been saying for years...
Cooperative Extension Agency -
their standing as one of the most popular landscape trees in
the Southeast, Bradford pears aren’t what they’re cracked
up to be. For despite
all the beauty they lend to thousands of landscapes throughout
the region, the trees are plagued with one fatal flaw: due to
their combination of vigorous growth, weak wood and poor
branch structure, they often begin falling apart after only 20
State University Horticulture Dept.
"Bradford pears have received bad press because of
their tendency to break in storms due to narrow crotch
angles. Bradford pear is actually only one cultivar of
the Callery (or ornamental) pears in the genus Pyrus. Many other Callery pears have less tight crotch angles and
hold up better in storms than this cultivar. For
example: Pyrus calleryana 'Aristocrat'."
"Bradford pears have a bad
habit of producing limbs that are clustered tightly together.
A few years later, those weakened crotches often break out in
"The trouble with
Bradfords is the weak limb structure. Narrow angles on any
tree where the limbs attach will create weak limbs. Bark is
included inside the fork and the limb gets weaker as it gets
older. After a few years, a windstorm can split out the limbs.
On Bradford pears, the split limb may be most of the trunk.
The narrow angles are genetic. They are caused by the amount
of a plant hormone, called auxin, produced by the plant.
Several buds break at the same place. The resulting limb
structure is terrible."
Well, we could go on and on with
one website after another but we think you get the
point. Pruning young Bradfords can help some if you
already have one but, in general, the lifespan is about 25
years (by then it's gorgeous) but you can almost count on it
breaking. When they break, they almost always take
a good part of the trunk and then the tree must be taken
So what to do? Plant
Pear looks very similar but has a more open crotch angle that makes it stronger and much more long-lived
because it rarely breaks the way Bradford's do.
University of Illinois
calleryana ‘Bradford’) is actually only one cultivar of
Callery pears in the genus Pyrus. Many other Callery pears,
such as Pyrus calleryana ‘Aristocrat’, have less tight
crotch angles and hold up better in storms than
‘Bradford’. Thinking that all the ornamental pears are
Bradfords is a common mistake. Knowing the difference between
cultivars is part of what makes you a knowledgeable