Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP) - to identify and control the invasive plant species that severely impact native biodiversity

Callery Pear Buy-back Event in St. Louis, MO — April 26, 2019

by Tina Casagrand

Do your part to reduce this highly invasive tree that threatens native wildlife and causes difficulties for private and public landowners, and receive a free native tree!

Jefferson City, MO (April 15, 2019)—Homeowners with an invasive tree in their yard can celebrate Arbor Day in a special way this year: by cutting it down.

To spread awareness about how the invasive Callery pear causes harm to economics and environment, MoIP will partner with Forest ReLeaf for a Callery Pear “Buy-back” offering on April 26. People who supply photos of themselves with a cut-down, in-bloom Callery pear tree in their yards will receive a free native tree to replace it. The offer is limited to one native tree per photo proof of cut-down tree. Participants are invited to pick up their trees at Forest Releaf CommuniTree Gardens Nursery (2194 Creve Coeur Mill Rd) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., while supplies last.     

“People once planted Callery pear trees for the beauty of their spring blossoms,” says Carol Davit, director of Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) and chair of the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP). “We now understand that when non-native Callery pear cultivars cross pollinate, the hybrid offspring become invasive, and are already causing harm to properties across the state.”

An inter-agency and inter-organizational resource of MPF’s Grow Native! program, MoIP’s principal goal is to make early detection and control of invasive plants a higher statewide priority. The MoIP website offers resources on how to control highly invasive species; and provides resources on native alternative trees to plant instead of Callery pear. “We don’t want to merely encourage landowners to keep invasive species from spreading; we want to teach people how to plant beneficial native species in place of invasive plants,” Davit says. “We are excited to partner with Forest ReLeaf, whose mission is to restore and sustain urban forests by planting trees and enriching communities.”

Native, noninvasive trees with white flowers blooming in April include serviceberry, wild plum, and dogwoods. This web page from the City of Columbia offers photos of native trees for comparison.

Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is native to China. Several cultivars of the tree are offered commercially, including ‘Aristocrat’, ‘Autumn Blaze’, ‘Bradford’ (which is the commonly planted “Bradford pear”), ‘Capital’, ‘Cleveland,’ ‘Chanticleer’, ‘Redspire’, and ‘Whitehouse’.

Callery pear limbs generally grow vertically, forming a pyramid or egg shape. In early April, very dense clusters of white flowers cover the tree before leaves form. In maturity, they reach heights of 30 to 40 feet. Property owners are encouraged to cut the trees during spring (when they are easy to identify) as a means to reducing populations from spreading in unwanted areas.  (For details on how to treat cut stumps with herbicide, visit MoIP’s management page.)

Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

These cultivars are generally themselves unable to produce fertile seeds when self-pollinated, or cross-pollinated with another tree of the same cultivar. However, if different cultivars of Callery pears are grown in proximity (for instance, neighboring homes or strip malls), thanks to insect pollination, they often produce fertile seeds—carried by birds—that can sprout and establish wherever they are dispersed. Each year, older trees in urban landscapes produce viable seeds that contribute to growing infestations. Breaking this cycle begins with choosing native alternatives for future plantings, and controlling existing invasive populations.

Participants in the “Buy-back” will have the opportunity to receive one of the following trees native to Missouri: Bur Oak, Northern Red Oak, Shumard Oak, Roughleaf Dogwood, Buttonbush, and hackberry. Four hundred trees are available, each in 3-gallon containers and between 4 and 5 feet tall.

Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis and may go fast; call ahead to 417-299-1794 or 314-956-2561 to confirm availability. To be eligible for a free tree, participants must either bring a photo of themselves next to their cut-down Callery pear or email the photo ahead of time to [email protected]

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The Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP) is a resource of Grow Native!—a 19-year-old native plant marketing and education program serving the lower Midwest. Grow Native! is administratively housed by the nonprofit Missouri Prairie Foundation. For more information about MoIP, visit www.moinvasives.org, email info or call 417-299-1794; for more on the Grow Native! program at grownative.org or for more on the Missouri Prairie Foundation visit moprairie.org.

Forest ReLeaf of Missouri is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring volunteer efforts in planting and caring for our trees and forests, particularly those in our cities and towns. Since 1993, the organization has provided over 200,000 native trees for plantings throughout the region. www.moreleaf.org