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‘Cut Down’ Your Neighbor’s Bradford Pear Week takes root

Wild pears.jpg

Wild, thorny pear trees, spawned from Bradford pears, dot the roadsides and form nasty thickets that crowd out native trees and other vegetation.


By Mark Rutledge

Friday, March 8, 2019

A year ago, this space was used to launch a national awareness campaign highlighting the evil, invasive and destructive ornamental tree species known as the Bradford pear. The response has been both ugly and beautiful — kind of like the tree.

Last year’s column encouraged readers to spend the second week of March insulting, but never physically chopping through, Bradford pears that others have allowed to flourish. The idea is to use a good-natured slight — a cut down — to spark an informative conversation.

Nothing else I’ve ever written can come near the number of shares and comments that column received on social media.

A few responders actually defended their smelly mutant trees. “Why do people hate my trees?” one person lamented. “They are so beautiful. And the birds love them, too.”

The haters, in this instance, are the good guys. Mostly.

“Y’all know I have a chainsaw,” one man ominously declared in response to my column, which in no way encouraged the lawless removal of private property.

Any horticulturist or forestry professional can explain how the trees’ cross-pollenating with other flowering Callery pears is producing wild offspring that are choking out native trees in fields and forests all over the countryside.

At this time of year, the evidence is as clear as snow on a mountaintop. The distinctive white pear blooms of the thorny, wild Callery offspring make them visible on roadsides and in pastures that are anywhere near landscape placement of Bradford pears.

I cannot claim a direct link to my awareness campaign’s mantra, but at least one state has adopted the “cut down” portion — only for real. The South Carolina Forestry Commission has distributed an online video encouraging Bradford pear owners to fell their own trees and paint the stumps with herbicide to ensure complete death.

The video offers detailed instructions on how to kill a Bradford pear. Some in the viewer-comment section have added their own, more spirited war declarations.

“Cut them down and kill them with napalm, fire, diesel, glyphosate, or whatever you have that will not allow them to come back from the dead,” one person writes. “If your neighbor has them and refuses to be a responsible citizen, sneak over at night for a covert eradication mission. …”

Their words. Not mine.

The wild offspring spawned by Bradfords rapidly form dense thickets that cause damage to native plants. “And their thorns have been known to shred tractor tires,” S.C. Forestry Commission’s forest health coordinator David Jenkins says in the video.

That brings me to something that has further stoked my personal desire to wipe out all Bradford pear trees and their nasty children: Thorns.

Wild pears with long thorns were among the brush I was working to remove in November when I suffered a thorn injury that rendered one of my fingers permanently disfigured. The experience has inspired a slogan for this year’s awareness week:

“Give Bradford Pears the Finger!” (In my case, “crooked finger.”)

South Carolina, you have my permission to print that on a T-shirt.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.