I am speaking of that awful, mis-dendritic product of human manipulation, the Bradford pear. Developers and landscapers have planted them widely in my part of the world, decorating corners and lining avenues. After a long almost eleven months without their dreadful appearance, after six months without having to think of them much at all, now they are exploding in bloom. It sickens me. And I don’t say that because I’m allergic. I’ve had sinus trouble all my life, but I don’t have allergies. (There’s actually a medical diagnosis for that, but I won’t bore you.)
Let me explain all those things that so appall me about the Bradford pear.
- First, it is a pear that bears no meaningful fruit. Now, my standards for that aren’t picky. I’ve been known to cook with the small, bitter fruits of an ornamental crabapple (good cobbler, but a lot of work). But the Bradford pear produces something that looks like a small, cracked wooden sphere. It’s useless as fruit; and when a quantity builds up on the sidewalk, it can be like stepping on ball bearings.
- Second, its bloom is overwhelming in profusion, and not in a good way. It blooms explosively before it leafs out; and so where there were bare, dark boughs, there is suddenly a cloud of white. Unfortunately, it is an ugly white, flat and empty, like a shroud. I grew up in the southern mountains, where the white dogwood is tinged with green and brown, and the magnolia is the color of cream, sometimes highlighted with pink. Even the whitebud, cousin to the redbud, highlights its small, distinct blossoms against the darkness of its bark. But the bloom of the Bradford pear blots all else out, with innumerable tiny blossoms the color of cheap, recycled copy paper. On gray days the trees seem blotches of thin cotton. On sunny days they manage to seem blinding and dead, all at the same time. (You’ll have to look for a picture elsewhere. Even if I had figured out how to add a picture to the post, I haven’t the stomach for it.)
- Third, its odor is unpleasant. It smells like stale, flat water from an untended birdbath. With the exorbitant extravagance of its bloom, it fills the air with its stench. It carries on the breeze, and where city planners in their perversity have used it to line a street, it produces its own airborne irritant attach. My sense of smell is not that acute, victim of years of sinus trouble; and in its season even I can smell it everywhere.
- Fourth, the tree produces branches that are spreading and spindly. Thus, it is among the worst damaged in any major storm. Like St. Bernard’s, when small they’re cute in their way. When grown, they are blown apart by summer thunderstorms and torn asunder by winter snow and ice. Perversely, many who lose them to such destruction simply replace them with another. Perhaps the flat whiteness has stunned them, or the awful odor has dazed them. I can’t imagine they’d do so otherwise.
- Finally, enough fools have done otherwise that the tree is now considered an invasive species in many parts of the country. Like kudzu and water hyacinth, what was brought to decorate a controlled garden has escaped to spread its foulness across the land. In fact, it is worse: kudzu at least provides animal fodder, and a starch that's an important thickening agent in Japenese cooking. This miserable tree produces nothing (but, then, I've already said that).
Blessedly, the white season will be short. Within a couple of weeks, the flowers will be gone and the trees will be hidden behind a decent green. The little balls won’t trouble us until fall; although once fallen they will trouble us underfoot until scrapped away with the first decent snowfall (perhaps with some of their branches). For much of the year, they are an annoyance, but only for the knowledge of their existence. But during their spring explosion, they surround me with their profusion. I would cry out to God against them, but their presence is the result of human perversion and not God’s creation at all. God created them in Asia; people brought them here.
So, for a time I must suffer its presence, thrust aggressively in my unwilling face. I must see, unbidden and unwanted, this unnatural thing with its misbegotten characteristics. I am surrounded by this abomination. The fallenness of creation confronts me. These are indeed dark days!