Plumb Lines

September 30, 2009

Asked and Answered

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 2:38 pm

“Is there some reason this is a bad idea?” asks Conor Friedersdorf, about his plan to plant fruit trees on city streets. Yes, there is. Most of the fruit will be unpicked, and will fall on the ground and rot. This will result in a greatly increased burden on muncipal street-cleaning employees. If many of them roll into sewers (the fruit, not the employees), as seems likely, actual disaster could ensue.

That said, many street trees currently are fruit trees, just of a genetically modified variety that produces only very small and entirely inedible fruit. The Bradford Pear is particularly common.

David Schaengold



  1. Not to mention YELLOW JACKETS

    Comment by P. Langdale Hough — September 30, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  2. having worked as a grounds keeper, the best small trees for streets in a temperate climate, tend to be flowering crabapple, and Japanese cherries. Bradford pears are a terrible choice. they split easily in snow and ice, and the flowers are rather mundane compared to the before mentioned. And yes, if you plant fruit bearing trees, all that fruit will make a mess, however, if it is tasty, it will get picked. My problem is it will concentrate attention from the public, like kids climbing for fruit, etc. Most of the time in a public place like a street, you are trying to get people to leave your plantings alone. Todays public doesn’t show much respect to plants and shrubs in the public sphere.

    Comment by brierrabbit — September 30, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  3. That’s an illuminating comment. What about Honey Locusts? These seem like attractive choices, and I’ve seen them around, especially in more urban contexts. In fact, the Bradford Pear seems to be primarily a suburban street tree, perhaps because its branches grow wide and relatively close to the ground, interefering with traffic in close spaces. Is that the nature of the tree, or just bad branch management?

    Comment by David Schaengold — October 6, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

  4. Just stumbled across this and had to comment. The Bradford Pear is a terrible choice for any tree planting. The natural growth pattern is such that it will eventually split or lose branches and it will have to be replaced. Definitely not worth the 5 days of pretty flowers in the spring. It is so bad that some new subdivisions ban homeowners from planting it. Yes it’s cheap and looks good in the spring/fall but avoid at all costs.

    Now don’t get me started on Red Tip Photinia’s or Frasier Fur’s…….

    Comment by Austin — October 6, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

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