The smell of spring is in the air at the University of New Mexico.

The birds flutter and tweet, people and turtles alike sun themselves at the Duck Pond and the flowers are all a-bloom — some more noticeable than others. The Bradford Pear's flowers can be especially “pungent.”

That’s how Alan Billau, the arboriculture supervisor for UNM, described the white blooms located around the Anthropology Annex, North Zimmerman and around the Student Resource Centers. 

Billau told the Daily Lobo he’s received some mixed emailed opinions on the trees. 

“I’ve had just as many people say they like the smell as much as don’t like the smell,” Billau said.

When asked to describe the strong smell, he said, “it’s indescribable."

Flowers usually produce sweet smells to attract bees, but there’s well-documented phenomenon of pear trees using musky scents to attract other pollinators such as beetles. The blooming period is short-lived, Billeau said, only about two to three weeks. He said the trees are bred for their flowers and not for their fruits. 

Even though the smell weakens in the second week of blooms, the trees have been a topic of discussion around campus.

“You know, I hear people complain about them,” said Beatrice Nisoli outside north Zimmerman, where the pears line the walkway, carpeting the sidewalk with petals. “But I like how they look, there’s only a couple of days where I could see what people mean about the smell.” 

The freshman in philosophy and mathematics said on those fews days the smell is reminiscent “of fish, definitely.” 

Visante Vargas, a freshman studying psychology, said the trees’ smell too strong for his liking. 

“I like seeing them, not smelling them,” Vargas said. “But I like being more outside, especially in spring. It’s just surprisingly nice, to see all the green and white and pink. The colors are so nice.” 

Skylynn Olvera, a junior studying nursing, said she enjoys the nicer weather more than the blooms because of allergies.

“I’ve been sneezing, but it’s not unbearable,” she said. 

But the Bradfords aren’t the only bloomers on campus currently. Bright yellow forsythia, grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips have popped up around campus. Any bright pink trees, such as the grove south of Scholes Hall, all belong to the Hopa crabapple. The ring of trees with a dinstict smell just north of Mitchell Hall are Spring Snow crabapples.

The particularly smelly trees are only a few of the 4,589 trees on campus, and Billau said the short flowering period means that he’s not going to change or get rid of them.

“If I had to get rid of trees just because someone didn’t like a certain tree for a certain reason, it would be a treeless campus,” he said. “Everyone’s opinionated.” 

Danielle Prokop is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @ProkopDani.