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What’s That Smell? The Stinkiest Trees in Columbus Are Blooming!

As the days grow longer and the chill of winter begins to fade, Columbus residents eagerly anticipate the signs of spring. Blossoming flowers, greener landscapes, and, well, a peculiar smell that wafts through the air.

Yes, we’re talking about the infamous Bradford Pear tree, often dubbed the stinkiest tree in Columbus. Its arrival is as predictable as the seasons, and its scent, unmistakable. But what’s the story behind this fragrant phenomenon? Let’s dive into the world of the Bradford Pear tree and understand why it leaves such a lasting impression.

Origins of the Olfactory Offender

The Bradford Pear tree, scientifically known as Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford,’ was once the darling of urban and suburban landscapes across the United States. Introduced from Asia in the early 20th century, it was praised for its rapid growth, beautiful white spring blossoms, and vibrant fall foliage. Columbus, like many other cities, embraced the Bradford Pear for its aesthetic appeal and its ability to thrive in various soil conditions.

A Scent Not Soon Forgotten

However, the tree’s beautiful appearance comes with a less-than-pleasant olfactory price. As spring arrives and the Bradford Pear blooms, so does its notorious smell. Descriptions of the scent vary, with comparisons ranging from rotten fish to overripe cheese, and even to more unsavory smells. The odor is due to trimethylamine, a chemical compound found in the tree’s blossoms. This compound is also present in decaying animal tissue, which explains the visceral reaction many people have to the smell.

The Impact Beyond the Nose

The issues with Bradford Pear trees extend beyond their smell. Initially celebrated for their sterility and inability to produce fruit, different cultivars of Pyrus calleryana have cross-pollinated, leading to an explosion of fruit-bearing trees. These trees are not only a messy nuisance but have also become invasive, crowding out native plants and disrupting local ecosystems.

What Columbus Residents Can Do

Awareness is the first step toward addressing the Bradford Pear problem. Local efforts to manage and eventually replace Bradford Pear trees with native, non-invasive species are gaining momentum. Last year, Bradford Pear’s were officially banned in the city. Columbus residents can participate in these efforts by choosing native trees for their landscaping needs and supporting local initiatives aimed at controlling invasive species.

Embracing the Smell of Change

While the Bradford Pear tree’s smell is an unmistakable herald of spring in Columbus, it also serves as a reminder of the importance of thoughtful landscaping choices. By opting for native species, residents can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable, and less odorous environment. So, the next time you catch a whiff of the stinkiest tree in Columbus, let it inspire you to think about the impact of our planting choices on our city’s ecosystem.

As Columbus continues to grow and evolve, so too can our approach to urban forestry. Embracing native plant species and understanding the long-term impacts of our landscaping decisions can lead to a greener, more fragrant future for our city. After all, spring in Columbus should be a time of beauty and renewal, not a season of holding our noses.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 4.0)