‘Bradford’ Pear is Not so Beautiful When it Breaks

Q. My beautiful Bradford pear tree now has large limbs that are beginning to break away from the tree. Can I prune the tree to keep this from happening?

A. There is a yes and no answer to your question; however, I lean more to the no answer. It’s probably time to remove the tree.

I have to admit that this time of year (late winter to early spring) Bradford pear trees are beautiful in bloom. This tree also offers nice fall color for our North Florida landscapes. However, with time, the same tree tends to break apart, becoming a potential hazard and a landscape eyesore.

Bradford pear tree with broken limbs from wind storm
Bradford pear tree with broken limbs from storm.
Credit: Larry Williams

The limbs naturally grow upright with a narrow angle of attachment with the trunk. This is a weak attachment. And, with time, as the limbs become larger and heavier, they tend to split and break away from the trunk. This is especially problematic in a high wind climate region of the country. And Northwest Florida is a high wind climate region. Unfortunately, Bradford pear trees will fall apart with time.

A UF/IFAS Extension publication on Bradford pears states, “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.” Here is a link to this publication: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st537

If the tree used to look better and now is thinning on its own or is producing fewer leaves, it may have a problem. Check to make sure that the lower trunk has not been injured by mowing equipment (string trimmer or lawnmower). Bradford pears, as well as many other species of trees, are unforgiving when it comes to their trunks being damaged from mowing equipment. With some trees, hitting the trunk one time with a mower or string trimmer becomes a “death sentence” with time. Also, the herbicide in some weed and feed products is detrimental to trees. So be extremely careful with any weed and feed product in the root area of trees.



When you plant trees, you’re planting the future. In some cases, this means future problems. Unfortunately, Bradford pear trees begin to break and fall apart with time.


Posted: May 15, 2024

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, HOME LANDSCAPES
Tags: Bradford Pear Tree, Callery Pear, Storm Damaged Trees, Wind Damaged Trees

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