Conversation blossoms about tree scent

Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER
Cameron Yong/HIGHLANDER

Evergreen pear trees, also known as Pyrus Kawakamii, have started blooming mid-winter, leaving behind a strong scent that penetrates the central part of campus and general vicinity of the Bell Tower.

Originating from parts of Asia, the Evergreens were first planted at UCR in 1967. Some of their main features include leathery leaves and white flowers that bloom during winter and spring. The clusters of white flowers give off a “sour laundry odor” presumably to attract pollinators, according to Andy Sanders, curator of UCR’s herbarium.

Known to grow around 25 feet tall, Sanders said the Evergreens also produce small, round and hard pears, “around the size of a cherry” that cannot be consumed. “I think it’s been popular, despite the smell, because it flowers when few other things do and it can be quite showy,” he said.

There are an estimated 30 to 40 Evergreens on campus, yet most campus officials are unsure as to why they were planted in the first place. Assistant Director of Physical Plant Toshio Ishida speculates that the species was considered “a good patio tree” despite its odor during blooming season.

Though the Evergreens are no longer planted on campus, other species of pear trees such as the Aristocrats were planted around the HUB plaza and outside the Highlander office (near the ATMs) back in 2008, coinciding with the construction of the HUB. “This variety does not produce the same odor issues,” assured HUB Facility Manager Joe Steinmeyer.

Many students who pass by the blossoming trees have responded positively to the growing flowers, yet are not content over the pungent smell that is left behind.

“Every time I walk by them, I feel like throwing up. Out of all the trees, I don’t understand how these ones were chosen,” said second-year student Wendy De La Cruz.

Sharing similar sentiments, fourth-year English major Bryan Medina expressed that he’d prefer seeing a reduction in Evergreen trees. “I wish that they’d actually put cherry blossoms instead,” he said. “They’d smell way better.”

Angela Hurley, a second-year transfer, said that even though the trees emit a foul odor, they are aesthetically pleasing. “It would also be too expensive a project for them to tear them all out and replace them,” she said. “(But) I think they should have thought them through before they put them in everywhere.”

Steinmeyer agreed that the tree odors were not particularly pleasant, yet said that there could be little done apart from cutting down all of the trees and replacing them with another kind.

Ishida said that neither the Aristocrats nor Evergreen trees have been planted as part of the 400 additional trees added to campus this year, since pear trees do not meet the required standard tree height or canopy size for the state grant allocated for tree planting.

“I do also see and value the history of all the trees on campus. Removing any tree should never be taken lightly without serious thought and reason to do so,” Ishida said.

Contributions made by Amy Zahn

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