Native to Korea and China, the Bradford pear was first introduced to Western horticulture in 1908. The Bradford pear is a fruitless ornamental pear tree, which is identified by its lovely pyramidal shape, and its white spring blossoms. (The blossoms have a rather unpleasant fragrance.) According to the University of New Hampshire, ice damage in the Bradford pear causes "included bark" in the branch junctures.
The Bradford pear has V-shaped (limb/branch) crotches, which lend themselves to limb and branch breakage during ice storms. Included bark in the Bradford pear is bark that grows in between these V-shaped crotches/branch junctures. The University of New Hampshire states: "This is a weak connection and enhances a tree's susceptibility to breakage under ice-loading conditions." Ice increases the weight on the branches and limbs and causes them to break.
As the Bradford pear tree matures, its V-shaped limbs grow larger and heavier. Storm activity of any kind--wind, rain or snow and ice cause can result in breakage of the limbs and branches of the Bradford pear tree. The limbs and branches of a mature tree (approximately 20 years old) can cause serious damage to power lines as well as cars and homes.
Before and After Ice Damage
Purdue University suggests thinning out the branches of the Bradford pear at the crotches to try to alleviate stress and weight before any damage occurs. Also, it's recommended to remove and replace Bradford pear trees when they suffer considerable ice damage/branch breakage.
Bradford Pear Seed Problems
Besides the branch breakage problem of the Bradford pear tree, it also has a seed problem. The seeds from the tree are carried and dropped by birds or can be scattered by the wind. These seeds produce seedlings that grow prolifically throughout the area and among other native species. This causes native trees to vie for space, sunlight and nutrients.
Fruitless Pear Trees
The Bradford pear tree was a popular choice as an ornamental tree in landscape design. However, because of the branch-breakage problem, its popularity dwindled. A hybrid--the Cleveland pear tree was developed to improve upon the shortcomings of the Bradford pear. The Cleveland pear tree is also a fruitless variety that gained popularity as an ornamental tree.
Cleveland Pear Tree Qualities
Cleveland pear trees were designed to have all of the good qualities of the Bradford pear tree, but none of its branch or seed problems. The Cleveland pear is seedless, and its shape is more symmetrical or oval. Its branches grow closer together, eliminating the branch-breakage problem. During the spring, the Cleveland pear is covered with lovely white blossoms, and in the fall its leaves go from dark green to a dark red.