Bradford pears are spurned and blog posts are discovered


by Susan
Never has a tree been targeted for such public ridicule as the Bradford pear recently in nearby Prince George’sFromdeck_1
County, MD, where there’s a move afoot to remove it from its hallowed position as official county tree.  It was given that honor because it was developed at a USDA facility located in the county, but now everybody knows it’s a crappy tree and a major horticultural mistake.

Why?  Because it has a "weak crotch," also a "putrid smell."  Man, that’s cold.  But well deserved. 

I first heard about the anti-Bradford campaign from a Washington Post reporter who’d found my blog post Death to my Bradford Pear and called for a comment.  Isn’t that one of the coolest things about mouthing off online, that people Google some weird thing and find our little rants and raves?  Like fans of Paul James finding me and people interested in the brown marmorated stink bug finding Kathy Purdy. (She’s surprised by the attention but happy to house all 226 comments about this apparently important bug!)

Here’s the Bradford pear story in the Post.  The Bradford in the center of the photo above is long gone and five Arborvitaes are on their way to filling in the space, and some.


Then there’s the writer for the French horticulture magazine La Garance Voyageuse who found my post about poison ivy while researching the plant for an article in the mag.  He emailed me in grammar-school English to ask if he could use this photo, I said yes and voila! – he actually followed through on his promise to send me a copy –  snail mail from France, three copies!  Now I studied French for six years and even lived in France for a while, so you’d think I could translate the thing, but you’d think wrong.  Sigh.

The title of the article is "Amerique du Nord, une empoissoneuse au coin du bois!" and I can’t make any sense of it.  Online translation: "North America, an empoissoneuse on the corner of wood!"  At least there’s an English version of their website, which tells us that the Garance is a weed in France, thus magazine title "The Traveling Garance."   

Okay, it hardly qualifies as swag, but here it is.  A free issue of La Garance Voyageuse goes to anyone who reads French and promises to tell us generally what the article about poison ivy says.  Are they plant-bashing, ridiculing all of North America or just the silly notion of a Poison Ivy Rights League?  (People in my town assume this to be a joke but the joke doesn’t translate well, even to people who live in this region. You have to know how silly a knee-jerk lefty town can be at times.) 

Just send me your address and a genuine French horticultural magazine is yours – for the price of a quick-and-dirty translation.  Results will be reported and credit given, of course.

We have our translator! It’s "Suzanne aka Vertie at Vert Austin.  She doesn’t promise perfection but this note is reassuring: "There’s a reason why my blog is named Vert."

We thank Suzanne for stepping up to the plate.   With her help, we’ll all have a peek inside another gardening world, one that’s closed to us by language. 

Or it could just be a hoot.

Previous articleThe Big Weekend
Next articleIt’s not fair
Susan Harris

Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).
  • Also in Greenbelt, MD, writing the e-newsletter and serving on the Board of Directors for the cooperatively-owned music and arts venue and restaurant called the NEW DEAL CAFE.

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. “Weak crotch” and “putrid smell?” I’ve found a little viagara and some tetracyclene can clear that up.

    Je ne parle pas bien assez de français pour vous, malheureusement.

  2. If you lived there for 6 years, you know more French than me – but the photo reminds me strongly of a flier I used to see in my labs in college, which was for the Plant Abuse Hotline, and railed against forced crossings and dissections with rusty razor blades. I wish I had a copy of that old flier! Thanks for the laugh.

  3. I think you have a typo and it should be empoisonneuse which would be the female version of poisoner. And the title would roughly tranlate to “North America, a poisoner at the edge of the woods,” which might make more sense? I too had 6 years of French and I’ve found that I can stumble through something as long as I know the context. I would have a hard time with gardening vocab though.

  4. Thanks, Heather! So it’s not just my French that’s gone but also my eyesight. It sure _looked_ like it should mean “poisoner” but the online translations didn’t work and it wasn’t in my dictionary and I just gave up.

    Might be time to buy some reading glasses that cost more than 20 bucks.

  5. I’ve never noticed a smelly crotch in Bradford Pear trees but I have never smelled any tree crotch up close.

    My objection to BP trees is that they sprout all over the yard in every flower and vegetable bed. Only the elm trees are as big a pest.

  6. Ban the Bradford. Landscapers in Napa are still putting them in. Today I drove past our former hospice office just to see how the heinous Bradford pears had held up in our recent wind storms. Sure enough, one had a huge wound where part of its weak and crowded crotch had let loose. I hope they take it out. Bad. Bad tree.

Comments are closed.