Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The stinky tree

The Bradford pear is a “street tree” that’s blessed with benefits and cursed with shortcomings.

A cultivar of an Asian tree, the Bradford is actually a Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana). Joseph Callery, a French missionary, “discovered” the species in China and sent it to Europe to be classified – and enjoyed. Today, it’s found along countless miles of American town and city streets. It laughs at pollutants like auto exhaust or road salt and needs barely a square foot or two of exposed earth as it rises from a cement sidewalk next to an asphalt highway.

In early spring, the Bradford produces thousands of showy, white flowers. Unfortunately, the blossoms reek – the smell has been likened to long-unwashed sweat socks. It’s a scent, nonetheless, that attracts scores of pollinating insects.

The tree has another disadvantage: It’s weak and it breaks. Sometimes, Bradfords split down the middle.

However, a rarely mentioned benefit of the Bradford pear is its tiny, marble-sized fruits. Birds love them, especially in the middle of winter when food is sparse. Even in January, it’s not unusual to see robins, cardinals, Blue Jays, even flocks of Cedar Waxwings, wandering its branches, snacking on the fruit, right in the middle of a town or city.

For that alone, we’ll deal with the spring stench and the risk of being beaned by a branch.


Anonymous said...

i have a few of these trees in my yard and i thought there was something dead outside thats how bad these trees smell im glad i figured out it was the trees or i would have went crazy trying to find something that wasnt there lol

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