Bradford Pear

Geographic Distribution

The widely used ornamental tree known as “Bradford Pear” or “Callery Pear” is known to botanists as Pyrus calleryana.

P. calleryana is native to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. This species of pear bears only very small fruits that only ripen under frost condition, at which point they are consumed by birds and other animals, only rarely by people.

By contrast, P. communis, the “European” or common pear bears the widely distributed and edible fruit and is a native of Central and Eastern Europe and southwest Asia.  All of the different varieties of edible pear are all borne by trees of the same species, P. communis, with the variations accounted for by different varieties within the species and perhaps, in some cases, by recognized subspecies.

Due to its showy white flowers which bloom prolifically in spring and due to its rapid and tidy growth habit, P. calleryana is a common landscaping tree in most of the eastern United States.  It can be found as far north as Massachusetts and New York, south through Florida, and east as far as the Mississippi River and further east in the southern states, extending into Oklahoma and Texas.

Bradford Pear Trees

While it was originally believed that the P. calleryana imported into the United States as ornamental trees were sterile, being selected for male trees only, the tree has cross-pollinated successfully and spread prolifically, often taking over otherwise fallow fields and crowding out native plants and trees.  In addition, it would be a rare case for a P. calleryana tree to live longer than 25 years.  The rapid growth leads to weakly supported limbs that frequently fall victim to wind, snow, or simply their own weight, breaking off at, and at times including, part of the trunk which leads to the death of the entire tree.

Bradford Pear Tree Damage

Although there has been no official government action taken at the state or federal level, responsible gardening professionals and associations actively campaign against the further planting of P. calleryana specimen trees and further encourage owners to remove existing examples.  If followed, this advice could prove a boon to wood workers as Pyrus wood makes beautiful material for wood turning and other wood working activities, while also removing a pest tree.

P. communis is very widely distributed throughout the United States and into Canada where it is grown for fruit production and for ornamentation. It is reported by the United States Department of Agriculture to be present in all but 11 states, although I would imagine that this understates reality slightly, as well as being present in at least three Canadian provinces.

For the sake of simplicity and common understanding, I will refer to from this point forward as Bradford Pear.

The detailed information that follows is mostly taken from data specific to P. communis but is still applicable to P. calleryana.

General Characteristics

The Bradford Pear heartwood color ranges from a pale pink to a light reddish brown.  In general, the sapwood color is slightly paler but in most cases it is not distinct from the heartwood.  The pink color can be made deeper through the use of steam.  In some cases, a completely opposite effect is sought in which Pear wood of any species is dyed black and used as substitute for the much rare, restricted, and expensive ebony (Diospyros spp).

Bradford Pear usually features a straight grain with a uniformly very fine texture once properly surfaced.

Bradford Pear Blanks

The endgrain of the Bradford Pear presents as diffuse and porous as very small pores in no specific arrangement.  The heartwood occasionally has mineral and/or gum deposits present.  The growth rings are distinct but the rays are not visible without a lens.