Pyrus calleryana Decne.

Bradford Pear


CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 20

© DETenaglia

Family - Rosaceae

Habit - Trees to 15 m tall.

Stems - Typically with a single trunk, branching, pyramidal in form. Twigs glabrous or rarely short-hairy, the winter buds relatively large, the scales densely cobwebby-hairy and fringed. Thorns sometimes present.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate. Petiole 2-5 cm long, moderately hairy when young, nearly glabrous at maturity. Blade broadly ovate, truncate to slightly tapering at base, crenate-serrate, acuminate to acute, undulate, 4-9 cm long, shiny green above, light blue-green below. Surfaces cobwebby-hairy when young, glabrous at maturity.


© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Flowers typically appearing before leaves on new seasons growth. Flowers in dense terminal domed to globose cymes to 7 cm broad, 7 cm long. Pedicels lanate to arachnoid pubescent, 2 cm long.

Pyrus_calleryana_inflorescences.jpg "Snowball" appearance of inflorescences on branch.

© SRTurner

Pyrus_calleryana_inflorescence1.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Pyrus_calleryana_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Corolla rotate, to 2.8 cm broad. Petals 5, white, glabrous, orbicular, distinct, borne at edge of receptacle, 1 cm in diameter. Stamens typically 20, exserted. Filaments white, glabrous, to 7 mm long. Anthers reddish-purple, 1.2 mm long. Styles 2. Carpels 2, with 2 ovules each. Ovary inferior. Hypanthium 3-4 mm tall(long), lanate to arachnoid pubescent. Sepals 5, acuminate to triangular, lanate to arachnoid pubescent, 3 mm long.

Pyrus_calleryana_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Pyrus_calleryana_calyx.jpg Calyx.

© SRTurner

Pyrus_calleryana_functional.jpg Stamens and styles.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Pomes 0.8-1.5 cm long, globose to slightly oblong-globose, the surface green to yellowish brown or blackish brown, with pale dots. Seeds 1 or 2.

Pyrus_calleryana_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - March - April.

Habitat - Cultivated, widely escaping to roadsides, fields, and forests.

Origin - Native to China (Asia).

Lookalikes - Several species of Prunus (cherry or plum).

Other info. - P. calleryana is one of the first trees to bloom in the spring. The brilliant white flowers dominate the dull winter landscape of Missouri for a week or two. This species was introduced into cultivation in 1919. The "Bradford" cultivar was introduced to the U.S. in 1964. Other cultivars exist which have different color fall foliage and different growing characteristics. Fruits can be absent to many small reddish pomes about 1 cm in diameter.

Bradford pear and related cultivars are visually appealing when flowering, but their attractiveness ends there. Although originally claimed to reproduce poorly if at all in the wild, this assertion has in recent years been proven spectacularly wrong. Callery pear is rapidly becoming a nuisance along highway corridors in suburban areas, later migrating into more natural areas. It is considered invasive across large swaths of the Midwest and Northeast. Furthermore, it is a poor choice for landscaping. Though attractive, the flowers emit a sickly-putrid stench. The abundant fruits (which are inedible to humans) make a mess in the fall. And the wood structure is weak, making the trees highly susceptible to storm damage.

People with knowledge and affinity for nature will not plant these trees. Good substitutes include many varieties of plum or cherry (e.g. Prunus americana), or serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea). These are superior in every respect, with multiple native species from which to choose.

Photographs taken in Stokesdale, NC., 3-22-03 (DETenaglia); also near Labadie, Franklin County, MO, 3-31-2021 and 10-31-2021 (SRTurner).