Don’t mourn your Bradford pear

Don’t mourn your Bradford pear

Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 8:01 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams

Recent devastating winds took down trees all across the area. Among the most common, but the least important, were the ubiquitous Bradford pears. I could say I told you so, but I won’t.
Wait, yes I will. I told you so.
It was a blessing in disguise and good riddance. If that wind hadn’t done the commendable deed, some other would have very soon.
You have heard me rail for years, ad nauseum, about Bradfords and their inherent vulnerability to every spanking breeze or fluff of snow that erupts. They fall into piles of kindling on a whim, due to the acute, and thus weak, branch angle structure. Narrow crotches are weak crotches.
The mystery is why people keep buying them. Two days after the storms I was in a nursery that had a fine selection of ornamental and shade trees that had every desirable feature, including strong wood, that one could desire. There was a man nosing around some Bradfords and I heard him remark that his 15-year-old specimen had shattered into a pile of brush at the hands of the wind. He was buying another one. Well, duh!
He had never heard “once burned, twice shy” I suppose. Why, pray tell, will a person with 15 years, 20 years or 60 years for that matter, invested in a tree that has been destroyed by something less than a serious tornado ever duplicate the weakling with another?
Some of the more recent introductions of Callery pears, such as Cleveland Select, have a somewhat stronger constitution, but on the down side many of them are more subject to fireblight than Bradford. I’ll never buy any variety of Callery pear until one comes along that is proven by years of trial to withstand wind. Which means, considering actuarial tables and my age, that I will never buy one, period.
We in Henry County were relatively fortunate in the storms. Though there was serious damage to more than just trees, there was no loss of life and not even any serious injury that I have heard of. In fact, the entire state pretty much escaped human loss, despite millions in damages to dwellings, businesses, outbuildings, schools and utilities.
In Milan and other points west, damage was more severe than here. Numerous large trees were down on the east side of Milan at the apparently endless road construction site, which seemed to funnel the straight-line winds due east along the highway. Many of those trees landed on houses, to devastating result, and other houses were decapitated when upper floors were blown away. Roofing, insulation and metal shards were hanging from almost every tree left standing. And again, the worthless Bradfords took the worst licking.
When trees, Bradfords or others, suffer wind damage but are left standing, or partially so, there often comes the question of what to do with them. Repair by pruning or not?
Each is a case in itself. With the Bradfords, top them at the ground line and be done with it. Replace them with something better. That’s almost anything but a silver maple or Siberian elm.
With a tree of some value, say an oak or tulip poplar, skilled tree workers (if you can find them) can often prune away damage and nature will sometimes complete the repair job over a period of time. It takes a long time to grow a good tree, so if there is reasonable structure left it might be worth saving.
On the other hand, it doesn’t take long to grow a Bradford pear and it is worthless anyway, so get rid of the wretched thing while the storm is fresh on your mind.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.

Published in The Messenger 5.3.11

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