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New program in NC puts 'bounty' on Bradford pear trees

Kelly Oten/NC State

A new program in North Carolina is placing a “bounty” on invasive Bradford pear trees as they spread through forests in the state.

The initiative is set to start with an April 23 event in Greensboro and could expand to more locations in the fall, according to North Carolina State University’s website. It will allow people to get up to five new native trees for their yards in exchange for cutting down the same number of Bradford pears.

“We probably won’t eradicate Bradford pear from North Carolina,” said Kelly Oten, a forestry professor at the university who’s helping to launch the program. “But we do want to increase awareness about how this tree is harming the environment, reduce how many people plant them and encourage people to replace their own trees with something else.”

Native to Asia, the white-flowered tree with a distinctive smell was introduced to the U.S. in the early 20th century. Bradford pears can breed with other types of pear trees and spread in natural forests to replace native trees and create food deserts for birds, according to Oten.

Residents who cut down the trees from their yards should bring before and after photos to the event in order to get new ones. A registration form can be found at treebountync.com.

So, how does one know if they have a Bradford pear tree in their yard? Treebountync.com offers the following tips on how to identify them:

  • ​Bark is grey and irregular with vertical fissures and a slightly orange color

Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

  • Leaves are somewhat orbicular in shape with tiny teeth along the edges. They are arranged alternately along twigs.

Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

  • Showy white flowers bloom in the spring and they give off an awful stench.

Ansel Oommen, Bugwood.org

  • The tree's fruit is a pome that is small, round, and brown in color. When dispersed, invasive trees grow from its seed.
Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.

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Joe Jurney