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Invasive Bradford pear "plague" threatens American pears
Karen House
March 14, 2018, 3:13 p.m.

Bradford pear trees are an ornamental tree planted throughout the United States because of their beauty.

March 14, 2018 – For many, the Bradford pear tree is one of the first signs of spring. Blooming early in March with beautiful white blossoms, the trees appear in neighborhoods and scattered across hillsides all through the United States. Who knew that such beauty could be a plague?

Bradford pears were slowly introduced through the 20th Century, and actively promoted as ornamental trees by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) since the sixties.

The fragile structure of Bradford pears makes them vulnerable to wind damage.

They originated in China, where they were primarily used as firewood. In this country, they quickly became popular as a pretty tree that could take just about any amount of abuse and still thrive.

Bill Finley has been a victim of the Bradford pear "plague."

Because they were sterile, the only fruit they produced was a tiny, marble-sized pretend-pear, so no one had the problem of cleaning up a lot of fruit in a front yard or business parking lot.

It was not long, however, before homeowners began noticing problems with their pretty trees. Bradford pears are notoriously brittle. A good, strong wind can break off a huge limb. And, they have what some consider an offensive odor.

But the biggest problem with Bradford pears only recently has become known – They are an invasive species that may well wipe out all the good, fruit-producing pear trees that are grown in the United States. It could be a serious impact to a portion of the American food supply.

I'm concerned about the destruction to the nation,” homeowner Bill Finley said this week.

Finley, who is 80 years old and has lived in Dunlap most of his life, has a large, fruitful yard that produces chestnuts, pecans, blueberries, and all manner of garden vegetables.

Eight years ago, he planted a pear orchard, “because I love pears,” he said. Most of the trees he started from seed that he was given by friends around the county.

Now, with an orchard of 35 strong, young trees, he is reluctantly cutting some of them down. His son will dig up the roots.

The Bradford pear trees that are prolific throughout the neighborhood have cross-pollinated with the fruiting pears.

Finley examines a young pear tree that will have to be destroyed.

Last year, when his young trees were beginning to produce their first crop of fruit, Finley soon realized they were bearing tiny, hard berries, instead of big, juicy pears. He went to the Sequatchie County Extension agent and asked him if he knew what would cause that, but the Extension agent was baffled.

Then, this year, Finley saw a news broadcast that confirmed his fears – Bradford pear trees were hybridizing the fruiting pear trees.

Not only that, the offspring of the noxious invader were reverting to their distant ancestors, which sport 4-inch thorns. The naturalized Bradfords have spread like weeds through the woods and hills of Tennessee, quickly massing into thorny thickets that choke out native trees.

Finley has several trees in his fledgling orchard marked with orange tape. Those are the ones he will cut down this year. And although his eight-year labor of love in his orchard is a great loss, he is more concerned about what will happen to the pear industry of the nation as a whole.

I'm not so worried about what's happened to me,” he said. “I'm grieved for the destruction to the nation.”

Naturalized Bradford pears adorn a hillside in Sequatchie County.

Last Week's Feature
VOTE 2018: Christy Vandergriff
Karen House
March 11, 2018, 9:50 p.m.

This year is an election year, and a number of local offices are open in Sequatchie County.  Dunlap News is posting candidate biographies each week on the Feature page.  We encourage anyone running for local office to email us information and a photo for publication.  Each post needs to be under 2,000 characters, and include your age, experience, and reasons for running for office.


Christy Vandergriff, 48, currently serves District 6 on the Sequatchie County Board of Education and is running for reelection.

I am very passionate about doing what is best for the children in Sequatchie County and believe every child can be successful,” Vandergriff said recently.

With a background as both a teacher and Head Start supervisor, Vandergriff has served eight years on the School Board.

I feel I am very qualified to serve as school board member, having both an education and business background,” she said.

A 1988 graduate from Sequatchie County High School, Vandergriff went on to earn a bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education from UT-Chattanooga and a masters degree in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Tech University.

I have worked over 20 years in the field of early childhood but started out, as many in Sequatchie County, working five years on the assembly line at Tecumseh Products,” she said.  “I taught for a number of years at Griffith Elementary School as both a  pre-K teacher and kindergarten teacher.”

For the past nine years, she has worked for Sequatchie Valley Head Start and is currently serving as the assistant director of program operations, overseeing a team providing early childhood care for children ages 0-5 in Sequatchie, Marion, Grundy, Rhea, and Bledsoe counties.


Vandergriff has been the recipient of the UCLA – Johnson and Johnson Head Start Fellows Program and received a certificate from the UCLA John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management.

Vandergriff grew up in the Daus / Cartwright community, where her parents and grandparents lived, and where she presently lives with her three sons.