LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – A distant cousin of culinary pears, Bradford is a flowering pear with blooms that smell like “dead fish”.

Bradford pear trees are popular landscape trees that, according to the University of Kentucky, are commonly planted in yards throughout Kentucky.

While beautiful when they flower they also create the dead fish smell, the tree is also becoming a “growing epidemic in old fields and roadsides.”

In order to help manage these trees, the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment partnered with the Remove Invasives Partnership of Franklin County and other local organizations and hosted a Bradford Pear Bounty Program Tree Exchange. The exchange was held from 9:30 a.m. to noon on March 25.

But what makes these trees such a hassle?

“The Bradford pear was originally touted as this perfect tree,” said Ellen Crocker, UK assistant professor of forest health extension in the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. “It is a smaller tree with glossy foliage and was supposed to be sterile so it wouldn’t spread out of control. Now we know that its lifespan isn’t that long; its branches are extremely delicate; the blossoms smell bad, and it can cross-pollinate with other Callery pears and spread out of control.” 

Bradford pears don’t stay put, in fact, their seeds spread into nearby areas and damage the productivity and integrity of agricultural areas like farms, forests, and valuable native trees.

The trees are native to Manchuria, China, Korea, and Japan and were introduced to the U.S., according to UK.

UK also said the branches are prone to breaking during storms and causing property damage. The trees also have relatively short life expectancies when exposed to wind, ice, and snow.

Property owners participating in the tree replacement program were required to cut down their Bradford pear trees and provide photographic evidence. In exchange, a variety of native trees were available and tree experts helped landowners decide what trees worked best with their properties.


“This is an opportunity for property owners to contribute to the health of their community — replacing an invasive tree with a native tree is like replacing a derelict building with a beautiful hotel and restaurant,” said Chris Schimmoeller, one of the event organizers and coordinator with Remove Invasives Partnership. “Native trees contribute so much to our well-being; we need to plant more of them.”  

To learn more about the Remove Invasives Partnership of Franklin County, click here.