I noticed on my drive to and from work that there is a landowner who has recently removed all of the ornamental flowering pear trees from his/her front and side yards. Hooray! Those of you who read this column regularly know I am an avid promoter of trees, so cutting down trees isn’t something I would normally applaud; however, the callery pear (Pyrus calleryana), often referred to as Bradford, Cleveland Select, and Aristocrat, just to name a few of the 26 differing cultivars, is considered an invasive species in Ohio.
Callery pears were imported from Asia and have been around since the early 1900s as an ornamental tree. We have friends in Pennsylvania and every house in their development had a callery pear positioned in the middle of the front yard. While the trees were initially quite popular for their lovely white early spring blossoms, their pretty first impression hid a long list of serious flaws including the following:
• The delicate blossoms are attractive from far away but up close, they stink!
• The trees grow quickly in an upright pyramidal shape making them desirable for urban and suburban areas, but their pleasing shape hides the sinister dark side of these trees. The limbs easily break during strong winds which ruins the symmetrical shape. Our friends in Pennsylvania had this happen to their tree as did all of their neighbors. The trees I used to pass on my commute to work suffered this fate as well.
• The fruits are inedible for humans and are not desirable to wildlife. They also create a slippery mess when the trees are close to sidewalks, driveways and parking lots.
• The original commercially available tree, the Bradford, was sterile and unable to reproduce, but it turns out that different cultivars are capable of cross pollinating with any other tree of the same species if they are genetically different. This has led to its insidious spread across Ohio and the Midwest.
• Because the trees that grow from fertile seeds are subsequently fertile, the population of rogue callery pears is growing drastically.
• The trees are tolerant of a wide variety of habitat conditions and their fast growing lifestyle allows them to outcompete many native trees.
• The trees were bred to be thornless, but many seedlings are now showing thorns, an undesirable trait for a yard tree.
While it isn’t really feasible for everyone to go out and immediately replace their invasive pear tree, the tree’s tendency to split out large limbs can be hazardous to people, pets, cars, homes and power lines. As soon as your tree starts to show any signs of declining health, prompt removal is recommended. To keep our community tree canopy vibrant, consider replacing these nasty trees with Eastern redbud, serviceberry, American hornbeam, or flowering dogwood, to name a few good substitutes. To learn more about all of the wonderful trees that are common to Ohio, visit forestry.ohiodnr.gov/trees which features photos and many details on mature size, planting requirements, and growth rate.
Our friends at the Athens Soil & Water Conservation District have an amazing color 2019 calendar of Ohio Invasive Plants which can be downloaded for free from its website at www.athensswcd.org by clicking on the wildlife/forestry services link.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.