`Bradford' is the original introduction of callery pear and has an inferior branching habit when compared to other cultivars which have since been developed. It has many vertical limbs with embedded bark packed closely on the trunk and grows about 50 feet high by 20 to 30 feet wide but the crown is dense and the branches long and not tapered, making it quite susceptible to wind and ice damage and other breakage. However, it does put on a gorgeous, early spring display of pure white blossoms, and the small, red/brown fruits which follow will attract quite a number of birds who find them delicious. Fruit set may be increased by planting two or more cultivars of callery pear together. Fall color is incredible, ranging from red and orange to dark maroon.
Scientific name: Pyrus calleryana
Pronunciation: PIE-rus kal-ler-ee-AY-nuh
Common name(s): 'Bradford' Callery pear
USDA hardiness zones: 5A through 9A (Figure 2)
Origin: native to Korea and China
UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: Invasive and not recommended except for "specified and limited" use approved by the UF/IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group (North, Central, South)
Uses: container or planter; street without sidewalk; screen; shade; specimen; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median
Height: 30 to 50 feet
Spread: 20 to 30 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: oval, round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate, crenate
Leaf shape: ovate
Leaf venation: pinnate, reticulate
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 1 ½ to 3 inches
Leaf color: dark green and shiny on top, paler green underneath
Fall color: yellow, red, orange, purple
Fall characteristic: showy
Flower color: white or tinged with pink
Flower characteristics: very showy; has an aroma that some find unpleasant; emerges in clusters on 3" long cymes
Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: ½ to 1 inch
Fruit covering: dry or hard; pome
Fruit color: golden brown
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; may be armed with thorns when young
Bark: light brown to reddish brown and smooth, becoming grayish brown and developing shallow furrows with maturity
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: susceptible to breakage
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: thick
Wood specific gravity: unknown
Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; moist but well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate
Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: tolerant
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases
Use and Management
The major problem with the `Bradford' callery pear has been too many upright branches growing too closely together on the trunk. Prune the trees early in their life to space lateral branches along a central trunk. This is not easy and a skilled pruning crew is needed to build a stronger tree. Even following pruning by a skilled crew, trees often look misshapen with most of the lower foliage removed and the lower portions of the multiple trunks showing. This tree probably was not meant to be pruned, but without pruning has a short life, thus `Bradford' pear defines a Catch-22.
Callery pear trees are shallow-rooted and will tolerate most soil types including clay and alkaline, are pest- and pollution-resistant, and tolerate soil compaction, drought and wet soil well. `Bradford' is the most fireblight-resistant cultivar of the callery pears. Unfortunately, as `Bradford' and some of the other cultivars approach 20 years old, they begin to fall apart in ice and snow storms due to inferior, tight branch structure. But they are certainly beautiful and grow extremely well in urban soil until then and probably will continue to be planted because of their urban toughness. As you plan downtown street tree plantings, remember that in downtown sites many other trees succumb before this one due to a variety of reasons, but the callery pears seem to hang on pretty well despite the problems with branch attachments and multiple trunks.
`Autumn Blaze' has wonderful fall color earlier than other cultivars.
Aphids cause distorted growth and deposits of honeydew.
Scales can be seen on `Bradford' but usually they are not serious.
Several borers may attack pear. Keep trees healthy to prevent attacks.
Slightly susceptible to fireblight when grown in the south but the damage is usually only noticed at branch tips. `Bradford' shows the best resistance to fire blight in tests conducted in the southeast of all callery pear cultivars tested.
Tips of fire blight-infected branches appear scorched and burnt. The leaves droop, turn brown, but remain hanging on the tree. The bacteria wash down the branch and form cankers. Bark inside the canker often shreds and peels. When a canker girdles a branch, that branch dies. The callery pears are resistant, but not immune to this disease and some cultivars are apparently more resistant than others. Prune out infected branches well below the infected area.
Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.