A Tale of Two Trees

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A happy Bradford pear

Once upon a time there lived two Bradford pear trees in State College. These trees grew on neighboring commercial properties. For the sake of entertainment we’ll call one property Nimh and the other one Oz.

The trees grew quickly after being planted. Both of them were proud of their rounded canopies, dark green leaves, showy spring flowers, and scarlet fall foliage.

One day a person brought a pruning saw to Nimh. Much carnage followed. Instead of a beautiful rounded canopy, the tree in Nimh had a sparse canopy. And scars.

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Scars in Nimh

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Reduced canopy in Nimh

This made the tree in Nimh very sad. The tree in Oz began to feel a bit superior to the tree in Nimh.

Then one day something happened that changed everything.

That spring day started very innocently. A slight breeze was blowing. But the wind progressed from a gentle caress to a devastating right hook. From Fabio to Kimbo (Slice, that is).

The tree in Nimh swayed in the wind. The tree in Oz swayed in the wind. Suddenly, with a sickening crack, the tree in Oz split; it’s beautiful rounded canopy destroyed.

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Canopy failure in Oz

When a veterinarian visits a horse with a broken leg he brings a shotgun (well, actually it’s most likely a needle, but shotgun is more dramatic). When an arborist visits a tree with a split trunk he brings a chainsaw. This bodes poorly for the horse and the tree. 

Today the tree in Nimh still stands. The tree from Oz is compost.

So lets talk about this.

One landscape manager was wise. The manager of the Nimh landscape realized that Bradford pear trees have a serious genetic flaw. They produce many branches at one point on the trunk, and as the canopy grows it becomes too heavy and splits the tree. To combat this, the canopy must be thinned. The longevity of the tree is extended by making an aesthetic sacrifice.

Now if the landscape manager from Nimh actually planted the Bradford pear in the first place all this goes out the window (wise –> idiot). No credit is due to someone who creates an unecessary problem and then solves it. That’s just stupid. 

Any person with horticultural training who plants a Bradford pear should be rebuked soundly. Better alternatives exist. There are cultivars of pears that are less likely to break (i.e. ‘Chanticleer,’ ‘Aristocrat,’ or ‘Cleveland Select’). There are flowering trees that are better options (dogwoods, cherries, etc).

I once heard a horticulturist recommend a Bradford pear. That’s like your doctor saying “You really should try freebasing cocaine this weekend.” Or your financial advisor saying “You should invest your life savings in Alf action figures.” Or your travel agent saying “I’d recommend Antartica for a nice honeymoon getaway.” 

If you overextend yourself beware of storms. You might break.

Moral of the story = Do not plant Bradford pears.

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Filed under Horticulture, Thoughts

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