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A Floridata Plant Profile #233 Pyrus calleryana
Common Names: Bradford pear, Callery pear, ornamental pear
Family: Rosaceae (rose Family)
Wallpaper Gallery (4 images)

tree  Provides Autumn Color Flowers

aristocrat pear
The 'Aristocrat' ornamental pear is a popular cultivar in more northerly Zones. Here's a grove of 'Aristocrats' in full flower decorating the entrance to a subdivision in Northern Kentucky (Zone 5). Click to download a large version (800x600).
It's like having two landscape trees in one: Callery pear is a spectacularly showy tree in spring when it is covered with clusters of white flowers and again in fall when its leaves turn bright yellow, mahogany and red. This is a pear tree grown for its flowers and fall foliage, and not for an edible fruit. The deciduous leaves are oval, 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) long, leathery and lustrous green, turning shades of yellow, orange, purple and red in fall. They persist on the tree into early winter after most deciduous trees have shed their leaves. The flowers are about 1 in (2.5 cm) across and arranged in clusters of a dozen or so, each cluster about 3 in (7.6 cm) across. They appear before and with the leaves in early spring, and completely cover the tree so that all you see is white. The flowers are not pleasantly scented and the pollen is bothersome to those with allergies. The fruits are spherical brown pomes about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in diameter. They are neither ornamental nor edible. Some callery pear cultivars are very thorny, and some are prone to break at their narrow branch angles. Most cultivars will reach 30-50 ft (9-15.2 m) in height.

There are a couple dozen named cultivars. 'Bradford' is the most popular; it has a very symmetrical, conical shape with dense, thornless branches, and dependable autumn color. 'Chanticleer' is even more narrowly pyramidal than 'Bradford' and has less tendency to break branches than some of the other cultivars. 'Korean Sun' is compact and rounded, to only 12 or 15' tall. 'Autumn Blaze' has thorns and develops reddish purple leaves in fall. 'Aristocrat' is thornless and has branches that are more horizontal than most.

Bradford pear flowers
The flowers of 'Bradford' pear appear first and are quickly followed by fresh light green foliage.
Callery pear was originally from China. It was brought to the US to use in breeding programs in an attempt to introduce fire blight resistance into edible pears. This never happened, but several ornamental selections were produced. Callery pear has escaped cultivation in parts of the South, including Panhandle Florida, and seedlings sometimes form dense monocultures that exclude native species.

Light: Best in full sun.
Moisture: Needs regular watering at first; established trees are fairly drought tolerant.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9.
Propagation: Seedlings are invariably thorny and develop into ragged, irregular trees. Named cultivars are propagated from tip cuttings or grafted onto seedlings of the species.

Bradford pear
Note the large limb laying on the ground at the right of the photo. A gust of wind split it away from the trunk of this 'Bradford' pear, a common occurance with this variety.
The several cultivars of Callery pear are used as urban and street trees and planted extensively along driveways, parking lots and in suburban yards. 'Bradford', especially, has become an extremely popular landscape tree since its introduction in 1963. It is tolerant of most soil types, air pollution, and drought. 'Bradford' pear is fast-growing, easy to transplant and easy to maintain. Unfortunately, 'Bradford' has a tendency to split at its tight branch junctures, and trees more than 15 or 20 years old often fall apart as the main branches break off. 'Bradford' pears must be replaced after 15 or 20 years. Still, 'Bradford' is probably the most commonly planted (shall we say, "over-planted"?) ornamental tree in the South.

Bradford pear in full color.
The ornamental pears are as colorful in autumn as they are in spring. Depending on variety and weather conditions the leaves turn to shades ranging from yellow to red to deep burgundy.
'Bradford' pear is hard to beat for early spring flowers and spectacular autumn color. It is tolerant of urban conditions, pollution and poor soils. It can be transplanted at any size. It grows fast. For a quick screen or ornamental tree along a driveway, in a parking lot, or along a street, 'Bradford' pear is a good (if not original) choice.

Expect to have to replace most callery pear cultivars, especially 'Bradford', after 15 years or so as more and more branches break off. The small fruits can be a messy nuisance in well maintained landscapes. Germinating seeds may result in thickets of thorny escapees.

Steve Christman 3/12/00; updated 1/22/06

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