SOUTH CAROLINA, USA — Trees are usually the solution to environmental problems, but the Bradford Pear is a faker that experts say we're better off without.
The tree is damaging South Carolina's native ecosystems, and that's why the Clemson Cooperative Extension created the "Bradford Pear Bounty."
Property owners who register for the bounty and destroy their Bradford Pears will receive a new native tree in return.
Although the event takes place in Sumter and Clemson, you do not have to be a resident of either town to qualify for the event.
RELATED: The Curse of the Bradford Pear Tree
At first glance, Bradford pears appear to be the perfect tree. The branches explode into bloom in the spring, maintain a beautiful canopy of leaves through heat and drought, and fade into reddish-orange in the fall. It's an ornamental pear which means it bears no edible fruits, and the trees are sterile, so they won't reproduce with each other. If all this seems too good to be true, that's because it is.
The problem with Bradford pears
Growers soon realized Bradford pears were producing offspring that revert to the thorny, non-native Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) and can out compete native vegetation. The same thing that made Bradford plants an attractive landscape choice make these trees inedible to native insects. This hurts bird populations. In cities, Bradford pears are often among the first to fall down during storms. The tree's brittle branches and short life span has become a liability and an extra expense for both municipalities and property owners.
Dr. David Coyle is an expert in invasive species at Clemson University and explains the tree started to really take over in forests in the mid 1990s, and they're easy to find now.
“All you need to do is look at the roadside in a couple of weeks, and you will see white trees all over the place", Dr. Coyle explains. That's why he's recommending people destroy these trees. Coyle is part of a program that will even provide property owners with a free native tree and debris cleanup as incentive for people who destroy their Bradford pears.
About the "Bradford Pear Bounty" event
"Bradford Pear Bounty" will take place in Sumter on February 27 at the Heath pavilion from 9 am to noon. There will be a similar event in Clemson on March 13. Property owners who remove their Bradford pears and take a selfie of the destroyed tree will be given a free tree as a replacement. The limit is 5 for each property and registration is required. There are about 250 free trees available for each location, and the City of Sumter will need the homeowner's address to provide free Bradford Pear debris cleanup. However, you do not have to be a resident of Sumter to sign up for the event.
Dr. David Coyle says they'll offer harder to find natives like Bald Cypress, Black gum, and Paw Paw - which is the largest edible fruit native to North America. He says cutting down Bradford pears will help the environment.
“Some people hesitate – I don’t want to cut my tree down – but you’re going to get an awesome tree and it could be something none of your neighbors have.”