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Why Do Bradford Pear Trees Look So Pretty But Smell So Bad?

A collection of Bradford Pear trees.

Bradford pear trees are popular in parks, communities, and even backyards. They grow quickly, are pest-resistant, and are very easy to take care of. Plus, they’re gorgeous! With beautiful white spring flowers, they offer something to look forward to every year. Until you get close to one and take a whiff.

So, why do Bradford pear trees smell? It’s a bit ironic, that such a beautiful tree would smell so bad—almost like something rotten. But, as it turns out, there’s a reason for its signature scent.

AL.com asked Dale Dickens, registered forester and Urban Forestry Coordinator with the Alabama Forestry Commission, for an explanation for the smelly trees. According to Dickens, the Bradford Pear’s scent is a mix of two chemicals, trimethylamine, dimethylamine, and a few more compounds. That’s what gives the fishy smell when you walk by.

While humans think it smells terrible, those chemical compounds the trees emit are attractive to pollinators. Essentially, that fishy smell helps to spread Bradford Pear trees around an area. So, one man’s fishy smell is another man’s (or bug’s) perfume, we guess.

Thanks to that scent and its ability to attract pollinators, Bradford Pear trees are controversial. They’re often considered invasive, but not everyone feels that way. Because they’re great for pollinators, the argument can be made that you should keep them around.

No matter where you stand on that argument, though, we can all agree that you don’t necessarily need to see a Bradford Pear to know you’re close to one.

Now, though, you know that stench has a purpose. While it might not be all that appealing to human noses, we need to appease the bees and butterflies as much as possible, and these trees are great for increased pollination efforts.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
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