Prince George's County Notebook: A Tree Dies in Prince George's

By Ovetta Wiggins and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 30, 2009

It has been an official part of Prince George's County for at least three decades.

But protests against it by a certain crowd might finally bring down the official county tree: the Bradford pear.

It's a "monster," said R. Cal Steuart, a member of the Prince George's County Beautification Committee.

It makes Prince George's "a laughingstock," said Esther Mitchell, coordinator of the county Master Gardeners Program.

The Master Gardeners considered it their responsibility to inform the powers that be of the tree's shortcomings, Mitchell said. So, last year, she and Steuart led an anti-Bradford movement that persuaded the County Council to consider ditching the tree for another, more respectable variety.

The two even took part in a six-month study to decide which tree was most worthy of the title. This week, the group issued a report recommending a replacement: the willow oak.

"The Bradford pear was not a good tree," Mitchell said. "It was a weed tree."

So, how did such a breed ever claim the title?

Todd Turner, a legislative aide who worked on the committee, said the county designated the Bradford pear as its tree in the 1970s. The tree is originally from China, but it was cultivated by scientists in Prince George's in the 1960s.

The committee decided that the new tree should be low maintenance, affordable, native to the mid-Atlantic region, free of serious pest issues and long-lived. The willow oak fit the bill and received the highest number of votes among committee members.

Steuart said the willow oak is the "exact opposite" of the Bradford pear.

"We are recommending a serious tree," he said.

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