Tree of the Week: Bradford Pear

Actually, this paragraph should be about the tree of the century since we all love the Bradford pear.  The tree is not really a Bradford any more than all tissues are Kleenex or all cellophane tapes are Scotch.  It is just the most ubiquitous variety of this plant.  A nurseryman would immediately know what type of tree you were talking about if you asked for a Bradford pear.  The correct name of the plant is the Callery Pear also known as Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’.  For those who are unfamiliar with this tree, I would say it is to a fruiting, edible pear what a crab apple is to an edible, fruiting apple.  It is an ornamental spring flowering small tree with nearly perfect city manners.  It does not grow too big; it has perfect symmetry; it grows in poor and salty soil; it does not make messy big fruits; it has great fall color; it has delicate white flowers in the spring; and finally, it is disease and insect resistant.  In short, it tolerates us and our cityscapes as well as a little tree should.  For those of us in the temperate latitudes, it is a fine example of a street tree.  

The Callery pear is a species of good winter hardy plants.  They have been extensively selected with Bradford being the most breakout special variety among others.  Now, there are more fastigiated forms such as ‘Aristocrat’ or better fall color such as ‘Chanticleer’.  If you were to shop for a Callery pear, read the most recent nurseryman’s literature before selecting a variety.  New types such as ‘Cleveland Select’ may have better branching and ice storm resistance than older varieties.

The reason I love the Bradford Pear is the adaptability of the species.  The only thing I know of that is wrong with the tree is it is brittle in ice storms and breaks out limbs when weighted with accumulated ice.  Other than that, they are pretty tough little guys.  One thing that is bad about pear trees in general is that they are susceptible to a bacterial disease called Fireblight.  I believe you can make any pear tree get Fireblight if you feed it enough nitrogen and water and make its new growth in the spring soft enough.  The Callery pear is naturally resistant to that process but if pushed, it can succumb to that disease.  If pruned out and returned to natural fertility levels and water levels, I do not think it will self sustain the bacterial infection. 

The other interesting thing about the Callery pear is it’s phenology.  It is late to flower in the spring, sparing it from spring frosts.  It also is very late to lose its leaves in the fall.  I feel it is half due to the genetics of the tree and half due to its aggressive growth personality.  It does not seem to want to give up growing in the fall and abscise it’s leaves.  It is among the last to color and shed it’s leaves.  But it does go out with a blaze of purple/red/gold fall color glory.

Since the monocultures of street trees have met their successive demises, the Bradford pear stands next in line for some imported disease.  It has stood where the American Elm, and the Green Ash and the American Chestnut have fallen to the Elm Bark Beetle (Dutch Elm Disease), Emerald Ash Beetle and the Chestnut Blight, respectively.  The Bradford pear is so commonly used, it is hard to believe some pest will not take advantage of the situation.   

A blonde woman was speeding down the road in her little red sports car and was pulled over by a woman police officer who was also a blonde. The blonde cop asked to see the blonde driver’s license. She dug through her purse and was getting progressively more agitated.

“What does it look like?” she finally asked..
The policewoman replied, “It’s square and it has your picture on
it” The driver finally found a square mirror in her purse, looked at it and handed it to the policewoman.

Here it is,” she said.. The blonde officer looked at the mirror,
then handed it back saying, “Okay, you can go. I didn’t realize you were a cop.”


The Leaves of Juvenility

Why do autumn leaves stay up there in the trees sometimes until spring?  Ah, yes, there they are.  The Leaves of Juvenility.  Some species of plants are interesting this way.  Some plants start out from seed as a physiologic juvenile. That is they cannot sexually reproduce until they are older.  They are similar to animals who go through puberty before they can sexually reproduce.  (Exceptions to this are called neonates but we will pretend they are the freaks that they are).  But plants are funny creatures.  As a seed sprouts, it lays down a history of growth.  The first part of the stem and the branches are produced when they are young and forever retain the  characteristics of juvenility.  They get bigger around and all, just juvenile.  (Definition of juvenile is not able to sexually reproduce.)  When the plant has grown some and has gone through a certain  number of cell divisions, the growing point decides that it is now time to sexually reproduce.  It now makes plant stems that, when given the correct cues, may flower and reproduce.  Most plants are not visually clear when they do this.  But some species have differently shaped leaves, or color or other characteristics that are only present in the mature parts of the plants.  One of the characteristics is the ability to make an abscission layer and shed their autumn leaves in the fall.  When you see a tree with a bunch of retained dead brown leaves in the center of the tree, you know something.  It probably grew from a seed and the base of the tree is of juvenile origin.  The tree made branches and stuff but only the tips of branches were of sufficient age to become mature tissue. 

The trees that I can think of that do this are few.  The oak and beech do this but not too many others.  Ivy and maples have a different leaf shape when they are juvenile and change shape when they are old enough to flower and fruit.  A more inclusive list should be drawn up. Someone should do that.

Tags:Autumn leaves,trees

Cooking Turkey 101

I had a discussion with a work buddy of mine years ago about turkey cooking.  He complained that his wife’s cooking was terrible and her turkey was especially terrible.  He stated that his wife wanted to cook a big turkey in the oven at a relatively low rate, say, 250 degrees.  This would create an all day affair.  In his frustration to speed up dinner he told his wife that the turkey took a certain amount of energy to cook which could be expressed as a dose of heat.  For example, at 250 degrees for 6 hours (250 X 6) the dose was 1500 degree-hours.  Therefore, taking the logic to the ridiculous nth degree, the turkey could also be cooked at any dose totalling 1500 degree-hours.  The bird would cook at 350 degrees for 4.28 hours, at 450 degrees for 3.3 hours, and at 900 degrees it would be done in 1.67 hours.  Of course he was purposely annoying his dear wife who was a true saint. 

This reminds me of the famous turkey paradox.  The white meat, which is already the most exposed portion in a traditional roasting pan, cooks faster than dark meat does.  With the thighs tucked under the bird, deep down in the roaster, by the time the dark meat is done, the white meat is dry and over cooked.   I like this discussion Jen Hubley recently had explaining that inside turkey meat receives it’s heat from sitting next to outside turkey meat.  In a theoretical cube of meat, the outside is always overdone when the inside gets up to proper temperature.

After reading her post, we have decided on an elegant and simple solution.  We bought a frozen turkey breast boneless tenderloin already seasoned.  Dinner in an hour, perfectly flavored.  Bon apetit mon amis.

Today I learn linking if I have to call my sons

OK let us try this.  I have copied a link right here.  Then let us just paste it in all easy-like.

was that that easy?  No don’t tell me it is just that easy. 

Hmmm Maybe tomorrow I will add pictures…

Fall is not the Time for Flowering

Why do trees or flowering shrubs like Forsythia or Lilac sometimes bloom a little in the fall? The reason is that they have an internal counting system to tell them when to bloom optimally. They want to bloom in spring and set seeds so their babies can go forth and multiply. The plant starts counting up cold units to tell it when it has had a winter. If you have enough cold days at the end of summer but the days are still warm enough to keep the plant growing, the “cold counter” may add up to enough chilling units to bloom.

This is also why we cannot plant apple trees in the tropics and expect them to do well. Some plants have a need for a chilling period. If they do not get a dormant cold period, they will not set flowers properly or flower at all. Most temperate zone fruit trees are like this as well as many ornamental flowering shrubs.

Some tropical plants go through a necessary dormant period too. Since they grow were it is warm, these plants count the season of the year by the wet and dry cycles. They know there is an optimal time of the year when their seeds or fruits will be distributed best. This may depend on the weather or it may depend on when some animal is available to eat and spread their seeds. The typical model plant you may be familiar with is the Amaryllis. Sold in its dormant, resting stage as a dried bulb, you can plant it, add water, and it switches to its active growing and flowering stage. We all enjoy the spectacular flowering display.

Hello world!

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging! 

I just got my first blog registered.  Now I have to come up with some content that would interest readers.  I have not decided who I will tell about this yet.  It would be embarrassing if I had nothing to say after people started following it.  So, I think I will write a couple entries first and see how it goes.   

My first topic is about trees.  Specifically cracks in trees.  Specifically cracks in trunks of trees.  When is a crack in the trunk of a tree a problem?  What can be done about it?

When trees start growing as little tiny thin seedlings they do not have much of a bark on their trunks.  The “skin” on them is smooth and corky but very thin.  It serves to protect the water transferring cells inside and the tree’s version of stem cells.  The bark grows in a flat plane from underneath itself and gets thicker as the cells build up.  As the seedling grows, its stem gets bigger around and less flexible.  The bark of young trees usually remains smooth  until they are over an inch in diameter.  Then at that point, something has to give or the tree could not put on any more thickness.  Tiny stretchmarks begin to appear running vertically up and down the stretching trunk.  As the tree “calipers up” as nurserymen say, these stretchmarks split and build up repairs from beneath.  The result is a rough corrugated surface we call bark and some stretchy looking fibers in between plates of bark.  Rough plates of bark continue to grow and break apart like plate tectonics on the earth’s crust. 

The tree is in no danger from the plates growing apart and splitting as this is usually done on a very small scale and no open wounds occur on the trunk.  They way to tell if the splits you see are just growth stretches and not harmful cracks is the presence of liquid leaking out.  Normal growth cracks do not weep sap.  Cracks from  frost or wind damage will have broken the water and sap transporting vessels and just like a hole in the garden hose, liquid will leak out. 

There is not much you can do if the tree trunk has a true crack in it.  A normal, healthy tree will begin to grow corky edges all around the wound and slowly grow over it and close it up.  Do not wrap anything over the area.  It is not in need of a bandaide.  If anything, bandaging the sap against the trunk may start microbes growing in the wood and be worse.   Someday I will tell you little gardeners about the fermenting tree.  But today is just a first blog with no pictures. 

Tomorrow I will learn about tags and pictures.