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Pungent. Malodorous. Stank. Funky. Smelly. Foul. Putrid. Blech!

Do you recognize this tree? While my example is completely overgrown (yes, this tree belongs to the same neighbor with overgrown bamboo – surprise surprise, right?), many of you may be able to spot the telltale features of the Bradford pear tree. These fast-growing trees (native from China and Korea, thankyouGooglesearch) are used quite often in the south. They bloom early in the spring with clusters of dense, beautiful white flowers and last for several weeks. In the summer, the leaves are a healthy, glossy green. In the fall, the densely packed leaves can turn yellow, orange, red, or maroon, making them a great autumnal tree, too. They are available, affordable, fast-growing, tough to kill, and have a lot of curb appeal – hence their widespread use for new subdivisions and commercial landscaping.


When they bloom, they draw bees like hippies to Burning Man. They usually don’t last more than 25 to 30 years before splitting (hello impending project pit, my house is 29!). And, perhaps the most noticeable, every spring, they STINK.

The answer to the obvious question, well, what do they smell like? will depend on who you ask. So far, the descriptions I’ve heard are:  rancid peanut butter, something burning, dog poo, tuna, grilling “mystery” meat, a women’s locker room, body odor, skunk, wet dog, and “just plain funky.”  But the description I’ve heard the most often is, well… awkward for me to even write. People hint at it, try to describe it in the most tasteful way possible… but the fact is, you simply can’t describe the smell without blushing. I won’t admit to having any reference for the smell myself, but there are folks out there unashamed enough to admit that they recognize it. I’ll let this link do the referencing for me. I’m too busy giggling.

However you choose to describe it, I have a stinky tree outside my front door. A tree that I really do not want houseguests to associate with my home. And one which, in time, may pose a hazard if it splits (but thank goodness it’s on the garage side and not the side of the primary bedroom). There’s not much I can do about it since it’s not on my property, so I simply have to suck it up and deal with the foul odor until I sell. Until then, you’ll find me each spring with my nose scrunched and holding my breath until I can get inside.

So, there you have it. Nearly 500 words on one humiliating, foul-smelling tree. Does anyone out there have stinky-spring-tree-itis like I do? Anyone willing to admit that they agree with the above embarrassing descriptions? You’re braver than I!

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  1. haha. I always thought they stunk too and until somebody told me this reference (blush) I didn't recognize it (because I'm innocent like that LOL) but now, its all I can think of when I see these trees. Yuck. Thanks for the giggle this morning.

  2. Have you talked to your neighbor about trimming it on your side of the fence or even removing it? They may want to take it down but don't want to offend you by leaving a privacy or lack there of issue between your yards. Just a thought and you may have already done that. I finally approached my neighbor last summer after 3 summers of dealing with branches and leaves from his trees falling over the fence and he went and pulled out the chainsaw and boom three problem trees gone in an hour.

  3. I can't figure out why you wouldn't want your houseguests to associate your house with an orgy. What's the deal?


    If i was a meaner person, I'd suggest maybe figuring out a way of killing the tree. :P

  4. *SNORT!!!!!!!* I looked up the smell, and OMG, I can't stop laughing! Am I 15 or 50?

  5. OMG I just clicked the link on your outdoor color palettes post and I’m trying not to pee my pants! Jizz-trees! EEEUUUUUWWWWW!

    Of course, we have unscented ornamental plums in our neighborhood, and thank GAWD the association banned the planting of Ginko trees. Have you smelled THOSE? Rancid adolescent boy-feet. Narshty!

  6. How much overhang is there? And would it help to trim your side? You can legally do that, at least where I live, although I would have a nice conversation with the neighbor first.

    1. I did a serious pruning job on it after this photo was taken. Pretty much got rid of anything that hung over into an area where I’d have to mow (so I could avoid the smell and the awkward ducking under branches as I cleaned up). The only thing I’m concerned about is that these trees are known to fall over during severe storms. The stump and roots are on my neighbor’s side, so I have to do a little info gathering before I know whether or not I can do something about removing it altogether.

  7. I also just clicked over here from your outdoor color palette post, and even before I got here I knew exactly what kind of tree you were talking about! Those things are all over Maryland, and I think they also smell exactly like the Yahoo Answers thread you posted. Thankfully I don’t live right next door to one! Terrible that you have to deal with that every day!

  8. Ohhhhhhhh, Sarah. How right you are! Before I moved to my current classroom, I was on a hallway that stuck out from the side of our school. There were many benefits to that room. Everyone left me alone, my neighbors and I could have dance parties, I could use foul language when I stayed after without fear that people would hear me. The drawbacks? They wanted to “dress up” that end of the building with some trees. They put pear trees in front of my windows. We had a HORRIBLE HVAC system, so I would open my windows…until they bloomed. Then, I couldn’t figure out the putrid smell and I finally realized it was our beautiful tree. My kids LOVED the trees and the windows open, but I just couldn’t handle my classroom smelling like used condoms. Needless to say, during the blooming season, we would sit out at recess and giggle like 13 year-old boys. :) SO glad someone else thought the same thing! We thought we were alone! :)