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It's complicated: Bradford pear trees may be pretty, but they're invasive

The Bradford pear tree is an invasive species that's been in Arkansas since the 60's. They also break easily and have a very... distinct smell.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It's beginning to look like springtime in Arkansas. The sights, the sounds, and unfortunately, the smells.

"Even though it looks nice, if it's planted too close to your house you're gonna get a whiff of that every time you go in and out," Jennifer Gibson, who is a horticulturist at Good Earth Garden Center, said.

We're not talking hydrangeas or petunias here. We're talking Bradford pears trees.

And Gibson said she doesn't (and won't) sell them.

"We've stopped carrying them as a garden center. Most garden centers have," she said.

"It got to be a point where we just didn't feel right about carrying the tree at all even though we still had a lot of people asking for them," Gibson said.

So what's so bad about them? A lot.

They're invasive and have been in Arkansas since the '60s. They also break easily, and if you've ever walked near one, you know that distinct smell.

"We've chosen not to sell them for that very reason, and we would encourage other garden centers not to as well," she said.

It's a trend already happening in other states. South Carolina is banning the sale of Bradford pear trees starting in 2024.

As the awareness that these trees are invasive and bad for the environment, Chandler Barton with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture said he thinks he'll see more bans.

Barton's in the same boat as Gibson— these trees stink. Literally.

"I don't see it as a great ornamental offering," Barton said. "I see it as something we have to overcome, to produce a better environment."

So if you've got the trees, how do you do that? Barton says herbicides can help, as well as clearing the root system.

Gibson says they can help too by educating those who may be interested.

"That's our favorite thing to do, is connect the right plant with the right person in the right space. And so ten years down the road they're not having to remove a plant because it didn't work well in their space, because they were given incorrect guidance," Gibson said.

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