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Invasive Bradford Pear Trees Blooming Throughout UC

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Invasive Bradford Pear Trees Blooming Throughout UC

One of the beauties of spring, Bradford Pear trees blooming throughout the Upper Cumberland.

Tennessee Tech Horticulture Professor Douglas Airhart said when the trees were introduced, they were loved for their teardrop shape and vibrant color. He said scientists believed the trees were seedless and noninvasive, but were mistaken. Airhart said though the seeds are scarce, they are stimulated to germinate through the digestive system of birds and new seedlings sprout wherever birds drop them.

“The industry figured that out way too late,” Airhart said. “Another problem was that their branching pattern was very close-spaced. In fact, they’d have three or four branches come out at the same location, and there’s not enough wood to support them all, so they would break out as they got bigger.”

Airhart said the trees have sturdiness issues with southern thunderstorm winds. He said invasive species like the Bradford Pear only become more difficult to control as they multiply. He said people often argue whether the smell the trees create is a pleasant fragrance or an offensive odor.

“They take the space by out-competing the other species,” Airhart said. “The more native, the more bird-friendly or animal-friendly. They still have attributes, but for the Bradfords, as opposed to the other cultivated varieties, that’s been the result of them being put out into the landscape.”

Airhart said cultivated alternatives to the species like the Cleveland Select and the Aristocrat have fewer seeds, preventing them from spreading so rapidly. He said that even when cut down, Brafords regrow as shrubs and continue to spread.

“Anything that’s invasive can be removed,” Airhart said. “I mean, if you want to get rid of it, you get your chainsaw and cut it off at the ankles, but it’s going to sprout back from that little piece of wood that’s left down there.”

Airhart said if someone is passionate about removing a Bradford Pear tree, they will need to cut it down and diligently apply Roundup, salt water, or even petroleum to the remaining stump.


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