Fruitless pear tree varieties

Learn About Ornamental Vs. Fruiting Pear Trees

If you aren’t a fan of fruit or dislike the mess it can create, there are many showy non-fruiting tree specimens to choose from for your landscape. Amongst these, there are several cultivars of ornamental pear trees. Keep reading for more information on types of non fruit bearing pear trees.

Ornamental vs. Fruiting Pear Trees

Many ornamental pear trees do actually fruit but, generally, produce very little fruit and of a small size, less than half an inch across. Is ornamental pear fruit edible? I wouldn’t recommend it. I would leave these tiny fruits for wildlife to munch on. The purpose of choosing an ornamental vs. fruiting pear trees is for its few to non-existent fruiting capability.

About Ornamental Flowering Pear Trees

Ornamental flowering pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) are instead often preferred for their showy flowers during the spring and their striking leaf color as the weather cools. Because they are not grown for fruit, they are fairly simple to care for.

These deciduous trees have dark to medium green ovate leaves with a trunk covered in dark brown to light green bark. Autumn chill turns the leaves into a kaleidoscope of red, bronze and purple hues.

All varieties of ornamental pears thrive in full sun in an array of soil types and pH levels. While they prefer moist soil, they are tolerant of dry and hot conditions. Unlike their fruiting brethren, ornamental pears are resistant to fire blight, oak root fungus and verticillium wilt but not to sooty mold and whitefly. Amongst the varied cultivars, ‘Capital’ and ‘Fauer’ are also susceptible to thrips.

Types of Non Fruit Bearing Pear Trees

Most varieties of ornamental pear trees have an erect habit and rounded shape. Different cultivars have different canopies from high to low. ‘Aristocrat’ and ‘Redspire,’ suited to USDA zones 5-8, have a cone shaped habit, while ‘Capital’ tend towards a more columnar mien and is suited to USDA zones 4-8.

Suited to USDA zones 4-8 as well, ‘Chanticleer’ has a pyramid like habit. It also has a minimal spread of around 15 feet across, making it a more modest option compared to say, the ‘Bradford’ ornamental pear. Bradford pears are beautiful specimens with showy white flowers in early spring and vibrant orange-red leaves in the fall. However, these trees can attain heights of up to 40 feet and have broad, horizontal branching systems that have earned the cultivar the name “Fatford” pear. They are also prone to breaking and storm damage.

Height varies amongst cultivars as well. ‘Redspire’ and ‘Aristocrat’ are the tallest of the ornamental pears and can attain heights of up to 50 feet. ‘Fauer’ is the smallest cultivar, only reaching around 20 feet. ‘Capital’ is a middle of the road variety reaching up to 35 feet tall.

Most of them bloom with showy white blossoms in the spring or winter with the exception of ‘Fauer’ and ‘Redspire,’ which flower only in the spring.

The Flowering Pear Bears Bitter Fruit!

Q. I have a ‘Cleveland’ pear tree that’s 3 or 4 years old. No fruit yet. My friend’s pear tree took a few years before bearing fruit; should I just be patient? Or do I need to prune these tall limbs back? It looks ludicrous to me for them to be so high. Thanks,

— Internet listener Melinda in Hampton, VA

A. Patience is a virtue that often bears fruit, but all the patience in the world won’t produce edible fruit on that tree. The ‘Cleveland pear’ (proper name “Cleveland Select”, and apparently the same variety as “Chanticleer”) is an ornamental, not a fruiting pear. Bred to produce flowers in the Spring that do not go on to form edible fruit, it is a close cousin/improved variety of the famous and notorious “Bradford pear”, which has the dubious distinction of being the single-most over planted tree in America.

Had it been a true, fruiting pear, you should have been pruning it every winter, but these ornamental versions, known as “callery pears” are designed to grow tall quickly, and are planted by many homeowners and municipalities for just that reason; they grow fast, providing screening and shade in just a few years. Seemingly admirable qualities, right? So why, then, does this ubiquitous landscape and street tree appear on so many “don’t plant” and invasive species lists?

“In the world of trees, ‘fast-growing’ almost always equals weak and short-lived”, explains Arborist Jim Woodworth, Director of Tree Planting for the non-profit group “Casey Trees” in Washington DC. “That’s why we haven’t installed a single flowering pear in our program to re-tree the DC area; they’re weak, have brittle branches and a life span of only about 20 years.” He adds that he personally doesn’t see much difference between the original Bradford and the newer named varieties of flowering pears, like that too-tall ‘Cleveland’.

“It’s a shame really,” he continues; “they were developed at the National Arboretum to provide homeowners with a fast-growing, flowering tree that would be free of pest and disease problems—but even the breeder eventually came to regret working on them.” Asked for alternative, better-behaved flowering trees with a decent rate of growth, he names two natives: The well-known redbud and the much lesser known yellowwood, “an underutilized tree with beautiful white blossoms and a great looking bark that provides year-round interest.”

Scott Aker, current Head of Horticulture at the National Arboretum, adds that flowering pear trees have also inadvertently become invasive. “The original Bradford pear was fruitless when it was first developed,” he explains; “at most it might produce tiny little sterile fruits. But over time it’s been able to cross pollinate—perhaps with these newer named varieties—and now those little fruits have become viable. They’re still really small—just the size of a pea or a marble—but birds eat them and spread the seed, and now wild trees are everywhere.

“They’re especially a problem in Tennessee, where they’ve been officially deemed invasive, which is kind of ironic, as Tennessee is—or at least was—a major producer of flowering pears.” Adding insult to injury, he notes that the trees, once totally resistant to the fire blight that plagues fruiting pears, are now being attacked by a mutated strain of the disease. His top choices for landscape alternatives are flowering cherries for amazing Spring color and bur oak for a sturdy, dependable shade tree that has a nice steady rate of growth.

Q. My neighbors and I smell a strong odor—a combination of fertilizer, sewage and dead fish—in the springtime, just when the Bradford Pear trees bloom. Could it be the trees? I’ve never noticed the smell before, but there are a lot of those trees in this particular area.

    —Pattie in Bowie, MD

A. Alas, it is the trees, Patski. In a great little article titled “Why you shouldn’t plant a Bradford pear” at his website “Growing the Home Garden”, Dave Townsend notes that “an extremely odoriferous aroma tags along” with the beautiful flowers in the Spring. He finds the smell “reminiscent of rotting flesh or bad fish left out in the sun.”

Scott Aker concurs, leaning towards the choice of ‘old fish’. “Anytime a plant smells like that, it tells you that the flowers are pollinated by flies and beetles, as opposed to bees” explains Aker. “That’s the kind of smell that attracts them.”

This tree get less sweet by the minute!

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The Curse of the Bradford Pear


All those white blooming trees you see everywhere… do you think they are pretty? If you knew what they actually represent, you would choke on your morning coffee and gag on your scrambled eggs. All those white blooming trees you see now are an environmental disaster happening right before your very eyes.

I’m talking about every white blooming tree right now, with only the exception of wild plums, which is a short multi-flora tree that seldom reaches over eight feet in height. All the other white flowering trees in today’s environment are an ecological nightmare, getting worse and worse every year and obliterating our wonderful native trees from the rural landscape.

If it’s blooming white right now, it’s a curse. This dictum especially applies to that “charming” Bradford pear your dimwitted landscaper planted in the middle of your front yard. Indeed, lack of smarts is what has led to this disaster. Bradford pear is worse than kudzu, and the ill-conceived progeny of Bradford pear will be cursing our environment for decades or possibly centuries yet to come.

When Bradford pear was introduced as an ornamental in 1964 by the US Department of Agriculture, it was known then that this tree possessed the weakest branch structure in nature. Also, the tree was assumed to be sterile. Bradford pears will seldom last more than 20 years before they bust themselves apart at the seams. That’s actually the good news.

In an attempt to extend the lifespan of this despicable tree, other varieties such as Cleveland Select, etc. were introduced. These trees will live for about 25 years. That’s little consolation for the resulting disasters that happened when these other pear varieties were introduced.

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After 25 years the ill effects of the steep v crotch branch structure – which all pears possess – take their inevitable course of action and cause pear limb structures to crack, split and bust. You can’t fool Mother Nature, and people who plant pears will sooner or later regret that choice. Planting pears borders on – if not crosses the line – of negligence.

However, the fact that Bradford pear trees are short lived and dangerous is not the real reason that these trees are such a disaster. The problem is that these trees are in fact not sterile. No two Bradford pears will ever reproduce among themselves, but they do cross pollinate with every other pear tree out there, including the Cleveland Select pear trees that were meant to be the salvation of flowering pears everywhere. The introduction of other pear varieties has compounded the problem to the point where it is almost too late to rectify.

Because of the cross pollination problem, pear trees have now proliferated exponentially across our environment. And, to make matters worse, the evil offspring has reverted to the ancient Chinese Callery pears which form impenetrable thorny thickets that choke out the life out of pines, dogwoods, maples, redbuds, oaks, hickories, etc.

When you see those fields of white flowering trees, please don’t get giddy with excitement over pretty white flowers. What you are looking at are Callery pears destroying nature. Callery pears have 4 inch thorns. They can’t be mowed down. Those thorns will shred John Deere tractor tires. They can only be removed by steel tracked dozers, decreasing the value of agricultural or forest land to the tune of $3,000 per acre.

And, make no mistake about this. That solitary Bradford pear growing in your yard is what caused this problem. Your one tree has spawned hundreds of evil progeny. If you don’t believe that, just take a little ride, and notice all the white flowering trees blooming these days. The closer they are to “ornamental” Bradford pear trees, the thicker they are.

Related: Alternatives to Bradford Pear Trees

If you want to save the world, cut down your Bradford pear trees. I could not be more serious about this.

For those of you who are regular readers, you have read this before. For you first time readers, welcome to the club. This is my annual “Bashing of the Bradfords” column. I appreciate all the support I have had in this campaign from readers who have sent me pictures of cut down Bradford pears and ground up pear stumps. It does my heart good to know that the message is getting out.

If you ever go visit a plant nursery and want to know if it is a good nursery or not, ask if they sell Bradford pears. All reputable nurseries are well aware of the evils of this tree, and refuse to sell them. Don’t let someone talk you into a Cleveland Select or other pear tree, all varieties of “ornamental” pear trees are equally bad.

Save the world. Eliminate Bradford pear trees. Enjoy your coffee.

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The Flowering Pear tree blooms in white during the very early spring and is recommended as being very cold hardy to grow in almost every State of the U.S. The flowers appear overnight covering each branch and twig, up and down, forming rapidly in large clusters to completely encircle all the leafless twigs with repeating and alternating white globes of fluff, assuring a future of fragrant resonant spring memories. The most desirable flowering pear tree canopy shape is a teardrop form, because excessive limb breakage can be avoided, and the life of the flowering pear tree is greatly extended. Decades ago the Bradford flowering pear tree was the most important original cultivar planted, because of its desirable globe canopy form, but that flowering Bradford pear tree cultivar has been largely discontinued by most nurseries, because the branches usually grew parallel to the ground, and the branch unions at the tree trunk were weakened, and that caused cracking which opened up easy entrances for rot and insects. Those openings eventually led to the death of the flowering trees. The new flowering pear tree cultivar named, “Cleveland” is an excellent shaped tree with spectacular blooms that has proven to avoid all the extensive limb breakage problems of the old obsolete flowering pear varieties.

Flowering Varieties of Pear Trees You’ll Want for Your Garden

The pear tree comes to life every spring, and covers itself with beautiful clusters of white snowy flowers. There are quite a few varieties of flowering pear trees, and you will be spoiled for choice when you start deciding on which one to grow in your garden.

The Flowering Pear or Callery pear are generally non-fruit bearing trees. They are ornamental trees with dainty white flowers often adorning the streets, commercial landscapes, and residential lawns. The pear comes from the genus Pyrus, and belongs to the same family as the apple, Maloideae. The flowering pear tree’s scientific name is Pyrus calleryana.

The tree originated in China and Vietnam, and later spread around the world and cultivated into different varieties to suit different habitats. They grow quickly and are easy to maintain. Most pear trees are deciduous and bloom in the early spring.

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One of the primary reasons why flowering pear trees are favored over other trees is the shape. Most varieties of these trees have more of a pyramidal or an oval shape. As some of them do not tend to spread out wide, they require lesser space. The fact that it is not a shade tree, gives a gardener more scope to widen his creativity.

Bradford Pear

The Bradford or the Callery Pear is the most popular and fast-growing medium-sized tree. It is also the oldest pear tree type, and grows well in full sun and well-drained soil. It can grow up to 30 – 40 feet, and has an average lifespan of 15 years. This tree displays a wide array of delicate white flowers in early spring, and then in late fall their dark green foliage turns yellow. The only reason the Bradford is losing its popularity is because it is structurally weak and subject to breakage, specially during snowfall and heavy winds. It is however, pest and pollution resistant.

Chanticleer Pear

The Chanticleer or the Cleveland Select is considered an improved version of the Bradford Pear tree. In 2005, it was awarded the ‘Urban Tree of the Year’ by the Society of Municipal Arborists. These trees are sturdy and grow upright up to 40 feet high, with a spread that is 15 feet wide. The Chanticleer is popular as a street tree because it does not create a mess with its shedding. It bears big beautiful creamy white flowers in clusters during spring, and changes its green leaves to a purplish-red color in early fall. It also bears pea-sized fruit, which are inedible.

Autumn Blaze Pear

The Autumn Blaze is known for its brilliant red leaves and huge round structure. It can grow up to 45 feet with a spread of 30 feet. It only grows in full sunlight, and unlike other pear trees, it is less susceptible to breakage and winter damage. In fall, the color of this tree changes in hues of yellow, orange or blaze, lasting as long as three weeks, and then turns deep burgundy. Because of this, these trees are planted more for the fall foliage than white flowers. Under ideal conditions, the autumn blaze has an expected lifespan of 30 years.

Aristocrat Pear

This tree is attractive all year round. In early spring, it dons its beautiful (but often foul-smelling) flowers, dark green and shiny deep-purplish leaves from mid to late fall. This tree is very sturdy and can withhold harsh winters. It looks huge because of its wide-spun pyramidal shape, and can reach a height of 35 to 45 feet. These are quite preferable for beautifying the outdoors and streets.

Trinity Pear

The Trinity Pear is one of the best ornamental trees around. It is a new hybrid that only attains a height of about 20 feet. Its small size and tightly-rounded form makes it easier for gardeners who have a small space to work in to enjoy its beauty without worrying about the space constraints. It blooms smaller flowers, and with the advent of fall, it changes its color to a striking reddish-orange.

Jack Pear

The Jack Pear or the Jaczam (as it is popularly known) grows to a height of just around 15 feet. It is one of the smallest varieties of the flowering pear trees, and also grows considerably slower than its counterparts. It has an upright oval shape, which is ideal for sidewalks and yards. These ornamental trees are an excellent choice as they display clusters of creamy white flowers in spring and brilliant purple leaves in winter. They add a refined outline in the summers with their rich dark green foliage. These trees are a landscaper’s delight as they are disease-resistant as well.

Redspire Pear

The Redspire Pear is widely known for its large white flowers and beautiful fall colors. This tree is mostly used for beautifying residential streets and curbs, as it has a symmetrical growth and is very easy to maintain. It is pyramidal in shape and can reach a height of around 35 feet. The leaves of this tree are glossy green in color, but then turn yellow, gold or dark-red in fall.

Capital Pear

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The Capital Pear Tree is a narrow columnar flowering pear tree, and is without thorns. It can grow to a height of around 25 to 35 feet, and has a spread of around 8 to 10 feet. This tree bears white 5-petaled flowers in early spring, and displays an array of beautiful green foliage all year long. In fall, the leaves change from reddish-purple to reddish-bronze, making it look very attractive. However, these trees are susceptible to limb-breakage during strong windy conditions and fireblight. They are still preferred by many for their smaller size and dramatic fall color.

Choose any one of these pretty adornments for your garden or surrounding landscape, and enjoy the delightful snowy white flowers and brilliant color palettes all year around.

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