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

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Invasive Tree Buy-Back in Columbia

by Tina Casagrand

Note: As of March 17, 2020, we tentatively plan to conduct the April 30 Callery pear buyback in Columbia as scheduled. We will update our plans in early April.

Due to CDC recommendations regarding the spread of COVID-19, our partners have decided to postpone the April 4 Callery pear buyback in St. Louis for a few weeks or possibly until spring 2021.

Mark your calendars and call your arborist! The Callery pear buy-back is in its second year.

Click to download PDF flier

To spread awareness about how the invasive Callery pear causes harm to economics and environment, MoIP will partner with the Missouri Department of Conservation and Forest ReLeaf for a Callery pear “Buy-back” offering on April 30, 2020.

People who supply photos of themselves with a cut-down 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 the Missouri Department of Conservation Central Regional Office, located at the MDC Central Regional Office from 12 – 6 p.m., while supplies last.

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: Nuttall Oak, Persimmon, River Birch, Swamp White Oak, Sycamore, Bald Cypress, Eastern Ninebark and Kentucky Coffeetree. Trees are potted in in 3-gallon containers and stand 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 to confirm availability on the day of the giveaway. 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]

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I cut down my callery pear in the last year–can I still get a native tree to replace it?

A: Rules still apply: bring or email a photo of the downed tree or cut stump, preferably with you in it. Tree availability is on a first-come, first-served basis .

Q: I don’t have a chainsaw. Where can I get help having my Callery pear professionally removed?

A: Please refer to the Grow Native! Resource Guide listings for Arborists and Land Care & Landscape Services to find professionals in your area who can assist with tree removal. These companies are on board with the Grow Native! mission to protect and restore biodiversity.

Q: Can I have a voucher to pick up my tree?

A: If you email [email protected] ahead of time, we will log your photos, but we unfortunately are not equipped to keep track of orders ahead of time. Trees will be available on a first-come, first-served basis from 12 – 6 p.m. on April 30, 2020. We have many native trees available, but they may go fast; you may call ahead day-of to 417-299-1794 to confirm availability.

Q:  I have 2 “Cleveland” Pear trees, would they be eligible?

A: Yes, absolutely, Cleveland Select is one of 26 cultivars of the Callery pear!

Q: I cannot transport a tree to Forest ReLeaf.

A: We’re not asking that people bring in a Callery pear tree itself – a simple photo of yourself with one cut on your property will do!

Q: I live too far from Columbia to make the trade worth it. Are any other cities doing a Buy-back?

St. Louis is hosting a Buy-back on April 4.

As a task force, we are working to get invasive plants in more conversations. We have many members and stakeholders tasked with sharing our information in their parts of the state.

Q: I wish Missouri’s county governments and the state would cut down their invasive pear trees on road sides and government land. They are contributing more than a homeowner with 1 tree. We all need to be part of the fight to support native trees.

A: Great point! We are working to get invasive plants in more conversations and out of more land–private and public alike.

As we explore ways to have an impact statewide, a common answer from government entities is that they need to hear from more citizens themselves who are concerned with issues such as invasive plants on public land. Any advocacy you and people in your circle can do will go far.

And there is a lot of good news! For instance, in 2018 Missouri State Parks released a comprehensive invasive species management plan for each of their parks. The Army Corps of Engineers is doing a lot of invasive plant work, as is Mark Twain National Forest. That’s only naming a few.

Q: I want to remove Callery pear from my property. What is the best way to ensure it does not grow back?

A: Please see Effective Control of Callery Pear – instructions by Dr. Reid Smeda, MU Extension, for the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force

{Postponed Date TBA} Invasive Tree Buy-Back in St. Louis

by Tina Casagrand

Note: As of March 17, 2020, due to CDC recommendations regarding the spread of COVID-19, our partners have decided to postpone the April 4 Callery pear buyback in St. Louis for a few weeks or possibly until spring 2021. We tentatively plan to conduct the April 30 Callery pear buyback in Columbia as scheduled. We will update our plans in early April.

Mark your calendars and call your arborist! The Callery pear buy-back is in its second year.

The Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force is housed under the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Grow Native! program.

To spread awareness about how the invasive Callery pear causes harm to economics and environment, MoIP will partner with Forest ReLeaf and BiodiverseCity St. Louis for a Callery pear “Buy-back” offering on {Rescheduled Date TBA} 10 a.m.-3 p.m..

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 the Forest ReLeaf Comunitree Gardens Nursery, located in Creve Coeur Park (2194 Creve Coeur Mill Rd SOUTH, from Hwy 141/Maryland Heights Expressway) from 10 a.m. 3 p.m., while supplies last.

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’.

This shows where the Bradford pear limb broke off from the trunk and apparently other limbs broke from the same area previously. South St. Louis, 2017.

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.)

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: Nuttall Oak, Persimmon, River Birch, Swamp White Oak, Sycamore, Bald Cypress, Eastern Ninebark and Kentucky Coffeetree. Trees are potted in 3-gallon containers and stand between 4 and 5 feet tall.

Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis and may go fast; call ahead to (314) 577-9473 ext. 76312 and leave a message to confirm availability on the day of the giveaway. 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]

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I cut down my callery pear in the last year–can I still get a native tree to replace it?

A: Rules still apply: bring or email a photo of the downed tree or cut stump, preferably with you in it. Tree availability is on a first-come, first-served basis .

Q: I don’t have a chainsaw. Where can I get help having my Callery pear professionally removed?

A: Please refer to the Grow Native! Resource Guide listings for Arborists and Land Care & Landscape Services to find professionals in your area who can assist with tree removal. These companies are on board with the Grow Native! mission to protect and restore biodiversity.

Q: Can I have a voucher to pick up my tree?

A: If you email [email protected] ahead of time, we will log your photos, but we unfortunately are not equipped to keep track of orders ahead of time. Trees will be available on a first-come, first-served basis from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on April 4, 2020. We have many native trees available, but they may go fast; you may call ahead day-of to (314) 577-9473 ext. 76312 and leave a message to confirm availability.

Q:  I have 2 “Cleveland” Pear trees, would they be eligible?

A: Yes, absolutely, Cleveland Select is one of 26 cultivars of the Callery pear!

Q: I cannot transport a tree to Forest ReLeaf.

A: We’re not asking that people bring in a Callery pear tree itself – a simple photo of yourself with one cut on your property will do!

Q: I live too far from St. Louis to make the trade worth it. Are any other cities doing a Buy-back?

Columbia is hosting a Callery pear Buy-back on April 30, 2020.

As a task force, we are working to get invasive plants in more conversations. Our task force chair maintains a good relationship with the Missouri Municipal League, and she will present on the Buy-back and other MoIP projects at their upcoming conference in September. We also have many members and stakeholders tasked with sharing our information in their parts of the state.

Q: I wish Missouri’s county governments and the state would cut down their invasive pear trees on road sides and government land. They are contributing more than a homeowner with 1 tree. We all need to be part of the fight to support native trees.

A: Great point! We are working to get invasive plants in more conversations and out of more land–private and public alike.

As we explore ways to have an impact statewide, a common answer from government entities is that they need to hear from more citizens themselves who are concerned with issues such as invasive plants on public land. Any advocacy you and people in your circle can do will go far.

And there is a lot of good news! For instance, in 2018 Missouri State Parks released a comprehensive invasive species management plan for each of their parks. The Army Corps of Engineers is doing a lot of invasive plant work, as is Mark Twain National Forest. That’s only naming a few.

Q: I want to remove Callery pear from my property. What is the best way to ensure it does not grow back?

A: Please see Effective Control of Callery Pear – instructions by Dr. Reid Smeda, MU Extension, for the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force

Mizzou Botanic Garden Cuts Down Pear Tree & Takes the Pledge to Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants

by MoIP 0 Comments
Mizzou Botanic Garden Cuts Down Pear Tree & Takes the Pledge to Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants

Mizzou Botanic Garden Cuts Down Pear Tree & Takes the Pledge to Stop the Spread of Invasive Plants

The Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force, a resource of the Grow Native! program, invites communities, campuses, businesses and other entities to follow Mizzou Botanic Garden’s example and take the pledge to control the spread invasive species on their property.

Jefferson City, MO (September 28, 2018)—This morning, the first of eight Callery pear trees on the Columbia campus of the University of Missouri was cut down—not by vandals, but by university officials. During the invasive plant awareness and educational event, officials not only removed the invasive, non-native tree, but also signed a pledge signaling the Mizzou Botanic Garden’s continued commitment to control other invasive plant species on campus. The remaining seven trees will be removed the week of Oct. 1, 2018.

            “These pear trees, located in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) courtyard, were planted in 1998 as part of the landscaping for the new Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building for their profusion of spring blossoms and brilliant fall foliage,” said Pete Millier, Director of Mizzou Botanic Garden, a designation for the campus. “Now, however, we know better,” said Millier, “and the Mizzou Botanic Garden is committed to stopping the spread of this pretty but highly invasive tree and other non-native invasive plants that threaten native biodiversity and are problematic for farmers and other landowners. We are proud to have taken this step, and to be the first entity in the state to have signed the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force pledge to stop the spread of invasive species.” For more than two years, Mizzou Botanic Garden has carried out other invasive plant projects, including the removal of five Callery pear trees at the Memorial Union, replacing them with non-invasive trees, and the organization of a mass bush honeysuckle/winter creeper removal along a portion of Flat Branch Creek.

“Mizzou Botanic Garden is to be commended for publicly demonstrating its dedicated effort to stopping the spread of invasive plants,” said Carol Davit, Executive Director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, the nonprofit conservation organization and land trust that operates the Grow Native! program, and serves as Chair of the program’s Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP), a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency group working as a united front to foster greater statewide early detection and control of invasive plants. “We invite other educational institutions, corporate campuses, municipalities, neighborhood associations, and other entities to take the pledge as well to signal their commitment to joining the fight to control invasive plants and mitigate the serious threats they pose.”

MoIP Task Force members developed the pledge with a number of benefits in mind. First, it lets the stakeholders of a campus, business, community, or other entity who may be concerned with invasive plants on that property know that the entity, by taking the pledge, has committed to developing a plan and dedicating resources to the control of invasive plant species. Second, it helps stakeholders understand that controlling invasive plants on that property will take time. Additionally, when a community or other entity lets its stakeholders know it has signed the pledge, it provides an opportunity for stakeholders to get involved in the effort.

“Invasive plants are serious threats to Missouri’s native ecosystems, as well as many native plants and animals, the built environment, and many facets of the state’s economy, including cattle production, the timber industry, and many aspects of outdoor recreation, including fishing and hunting industries,” said Davit. “Missouri will control invasive species only with the concerted efforts of many entities, including private citizens working together. Our state is a long-time, nationwide leader in natural resource conservation, and by leading in invasive plant control as well, we can further safeguard Missouri’s habitats, fish, wildlife, and other cherished aspects of our natural heritage.”

            Entities wishing to sign the pledge may do so via a Google form available at www.moinvasives.org. The Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP) can also provide a pledge document suitable for signing ceremonies and framing. Many resources on the identification and control of invasive plants, including native alternatives to invasive plants, are available from MoIP as well.

Missouri Noxious Weed Law – Not Right for Callery Pear

by MoIP 0 Comments

 

When the Missouri Department of Conservation posted about stopping the spread of Callery pear, there were several good questions and comments about legal ramifications for distributing invasive plants. We will address some of them here.

 

“If Callery pear trees are a problem, why are they sold at almost all home stores?”

It is not illegal to sell Callery pear. While many small nurseries are aware of the problem and no longer carry Callery cultivars, large stores with national purchasing programs still stock Callery on their sales floor.

The only Missouri law concerning invasive plants is the Noxious Weed Law 263.190, which identifies only 12 species of plants. Most of those species are commonly known to threaten agricultural land.

The Noxious Weed Law comes with two legal mandates:

  • Noxious weeds may not be sold.
  • Landowners must control and/or eradicate these particular weeds.

Since Callery pears are planted on countless lawns and landscapes, the second mandate would require all private homeowners to cut down their pear trees. That would be highly unpopular. Plus, there aren’t enough resources to enforce the law.

Failure to comply with the Noxious Weed Law is a misdemeanor. County prosecutors enforce it.

 

“Ban the things. Other states do. They cannot be shipped there.”

Currently, adding a plant to the Noxious Weed Law list requires review and approval by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

However, to create a new designation of plants that are banned from sale (and not require landowners to control) would require changing statutes through the legislative process.

The State of Ohio recently passed new legislation that bans the sale of 30+ species of known invasive plants (read law here). Missouri agencies are aware of the legislation. The Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force is currently reviewing the spread of invasive species statewide in order to make research-based recommendations regarding new rules.

 

“Could the USDA be petitioned to stop the sale?”

We prefer to educate the public rather than pursue top-down measures.

 

“What can I do to stop the spread?”

Spread something else: spread the word! Tell the story about how ornamental pears are cross-breeding with cousins, and how it’s becoming a big problem for roadways, empty fields, and other landscapes in Missouri. Contact your city officials, legislators, and governor, to express your thoughts on Callery pear and other invasive species. Advocate for solutions at all levels of your community.

About Noxious Weed Law, from the Missouri Department of Agriculture

The State of Missouri has designated twelve weed species as noxious.

Weeds on this list are designated as such because they can cause economic harm to the state’s agriculture industry and because of the high level of difficulty associated with controlling or eradicating the species. For more information visit Noxious Weed Control (http://agriculture.mo.gov/plants/ipm/noxiousweeds.php)

Stop the Spread: Callery Pear Field Event

by Tina Casagrand 0 Comments

The Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force is on a mission to stop the spread of invasive Bradford pear trees. Join experts on April 13, 2 p.m. at 551 E. Southhampton Drive in Columbia, MO for an hour-long event featuring speakers and learning stations. Hear practical management advice and insight on the impact of this once-favorite tree that is now becoming known as a highly invasive, weak-wooded, smelly, and thorny nuisance. For more information, visit moinvasives.org or contact Carol Davit, 573-356-728, [email protected]

Plant This, Not That: 10 Native Trees to Plant in Place of Callery Pear

by MoIP 0 Comments
Plant This, Not That: 10 Native Trees to Plant in Place of Callery Pear
Prunus virginiana (chokeberry or chokecherry) is a small, suckering tree or large shrub with attractive white flowers on 3-6″ long clusters in spring. Fruit is red, ripening to purple in fall. Grow as a screen or as an understory planting as it has unusual shade tolerance for a cherry. Learn more and find nurseries, landscape services and more at: http://grownative.org/plant-picker/plant/chokeberry/ Chokeberry photos from Grow Native! and Flickr user Frank D. Lospalluto. Bradford Pear photo from MDC.

“My heart is broken.” A woman dipped her head back and sighed as cars zoomed behind her and freshly cut tree trunks lay bucked up in scattered rows. A long row of Bradford pear trees, a cultivar of Callery pear (Pyrus calleryanna), had bloomed in her Kansas community for years, and now they were gone. “This is the best part of our neighborhood,” she told a news reporter.

It’s easy to see what she loved about Callery pear trees: billions of white flowers put on shows in early spring and waxy red leaves blaze in the fall. As a plus, they grow fast to fill in new developments.

Of course, a closer look reveals many reasons for a neighborhood to cut down all their Callery pears.

For one, Callery pear blossoms smell terrible. Their showiness resembles a vain monarch who’s trying too hard to impress. Even HGTV recommends finding an alternative to Bradford (Callery) pear trees, due in part to the way their branches break easily in wind or ice storms. And of course, there’s the way the cultivars’ cross-breeding causes big problems as an invasive plant.

While we at the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force call for stopping the sale of invasive plants such as Callery pear, we know many people may ask, “If I cut down my Bradford pear tree, what should I replace it with,” or, “What should I plant instead of a Bradford or Callery Pear?”

Fortunately, many alternatives are available from Grow Native! retailers and wholesalers.

The following are 10 native Missouri trees we recommend planting in place of Callery pear. These species not only challenge Callery pear in springtime beauty and/or fall color, but they also support the local ecosystem by providing food to wildlife that have coevolved with the trees over millennia. You can’t get much better than that.

This list was inspired by the City of Columbia’s “Stop the Spread” campaign to manage the threat of invasive Callery pear tree hybrids.

Learn more about these and other Missouri native plants on the Grow Native! Native Plant Database.

Download our poster set of Native Missouri Trees to Plant Instead of Callery Pear.

1. Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw Viburnum)

Viburnum prunifolium (black haw viburnum) have flat heads of white flowers in the spring. Birds eat the purple-black fruit in the fall. The edible fruit tastes like raisins. Grow as a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub. The leaves develop a beautiful red color in fall. Viburnum photos by Fritz Flohr Reynolds and Suzanne Cadwell. Bradford Pear photos by Bruce Henry and MDC.

2. Prunus americana (Wild Plum)

Prunus americana, Wild Plum, can be grown as a single trunk tree or multi-stemmed shrub. The pure white, fragrant flowers are among the first to open in spring. Heavier flowering in sun. Yellow to red, round, edible fruits, 1″ in diameter. Host to Red-spotted Purple Butterfly and many moths. Wild plum photos by Becky Erickson.

3. Ostrya virginiana (Ironwood or Eastern Hophornbeam)


Ostrya virginiana (ironwood or Eastern hop hornbeam), is a tough understory tree with beautiful birch-like leaves, grayish-brown flaky bark, fine-textured drooping branches, and attractive hop-like fruits. Ironwood is considered one of Illinois’ toughest native hardwoods and is not only ornamental but resistant to many disease and insect problems.Ironwood photos from Flickr user Katja Schulz and Missouri Botanical Garden. Bradford pear photos from John Nekola and Flickr user wplynn.

4. Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud)

Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) bears prolific, edible, deep pink flowers in early spring. Red-purple, pea-shaped seed pods follow the flowers. Heart-shaped leaves turn yellow in fall.
Eastern redbud photos from Grow Native! and Flickr user Matthew Beziat. Bradford pear photos by Martin LaBar and Amanda Nichols.

5. Amelanchier arborea (Serviceberry)

Amelanchier arborea (serviceberry) is a tall shrub or small tree bearing clusters of fragrant white flowers in April. Flowers give rise to very flavorful, red to purple-black, berrylike fruits relished by both songbirds and people. This lovely tree has colorful fall foliage in a blend of orange, gold, red and green. Serviceberry photos by Flickr users Dan Mullen and RJ. Bradford pear photos by Martin LaBar and Amanda Nichols.

6. Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam)

Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam) is a small to medium multi-stemmed tree forming wide spreading rounded tops. A subtle beauty often overlooked. Simple toothed leaves are dark green and have variable yellow, orange, red or reddish purple fall color. Beautiful thin, bluish-gray bark that appears to “ripple” as the tree matures. Hence another common name: “Musclewood.” Hornbeam photos by Flickr users Wendy Cutler and Paco Garin. Bradford Pear photos by wplynn and Roger Smith.

7. Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)

Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) is a small, low-branched tree with spreading horizontal branches. Distinctive white flowers, 3″ in diameter, bloom mid-April to mid-May. Clusters of glossy red fruit in fall persist into winter and are relished by birds. Consistent deep red fall leaf color. Dogwood photos by Steve Harwood and Plant Image Library. Bradford pear photo courtesy MDC.

8. Nyssa sylvatica (Black Gum)

Nyssa sylvatica (black gum) is one of our most beautiful and underused native trees. Makes an excellent specimen tree, tidy shape. Attractive, glossy, dark green leaves that turn yellow, orange, and scarlet red in fall. Bark is dark gray to almost black, alligator-like patterns when old. Fruit the size of navy beans ripen to a dark blue in fall and are a favorite food to many birds. Host for the black and white Hebrew Moth. Learn more and find nurseries, landscape services and more at Grow Native! Black gum photos from Grow Native! and Flickr user Leonora (Ellie) Enking. Bradford Pear photos by wplynn and Roger Smith.

9. Cladrastis kentukea (Yellowwood)


Cladrastis kentukea (Yellowwood): very underused native that will fool some into thinking it is an exotic beauty! Medium sized tree, good for small areas, rich pea-green compound leaves with soft golden yellow fall color. The breathtaking, fragrant, creamy-white flowers occur in May on pendulous 8-14″ long panicles. Rarely heavily flowers annually, usually alternate flowering. The bark is very smooth and gray.Yellowwood photos from Flickr user Tom Gill and Grow Native! Bradford pear photos from John Nekola and MDC.

10. Prunus virginiana (Chokeberry or Chokecherry)

Prunus virginiana (chokeberry or chokecherry) is a small, suckering tree or large shrub with attractive white flowers on 3-6″ long clusters in spring. Fruit is red, ripening to purple in fall. Grow as a screen or as an understory planting as it has unusual shade tolerance for a cherry.
Chokeberry photos from Grow Native! and Flickr user Frank D. Lospalluto. Bradford Pear photo from MDC.

Did you find this blog post useful? Please share these images on Instagram, share our gallery on Facebook, and encourage your neighbors to replace Bradford pear with native Missouri alternatives!

Requiem for a Bradford Pear

by MoIP 0 Comments

This shows where the Bradford pear limb broke off from the trunk and apparently other limbs broke from the same area previously. South St. Louis, 2017.

originally published in Outdoor Living, Summer 2014

by Margo Farnsworth

I had inherited my much longed for older sister’s bedroom.  It was a garret-like space that opened into our dusty, but neatly arranged attic with oversized attic fan serving as both focal point and cooling system in the early 1960’s. Here too, was the board where my chalk smudged seven-year-old fingers laid out my future farm.  Lots of horses with paddocks to the west of the house and long southern pastures in the fore were carefully drawn.  The front drive would, of course, be Bradford pears lined up two-by-two all the way to the street.

I was raised on a love of Bradford pears.  Originally sent from China to Europe, their snowy spring dresses came to adorn landscapes in all the most fashionable business parks beginning in the ‘50s.  As subdivisions became popular, so too were these orderly, oval-topped sentries planted throughout neighborhood entries and parks alike.  Their march toward omnipresence had begun.  

As time passed, years of dust settled on the chalkboard with the drawing of my farm.  Bradford pears advanced their hold on whole communities as I was building a career and raising a family.  No horticulturalist, I had not studied the darker side of the pernicious pear.  As I grew, those first pears started to disintegrate in storms.  “Break-away” pears we labeled them as we began to recognize they were neither strong nor long-lived, have lives of usually less than 25 years, with their demise commonly arriving after only 15 to 20 years.

Then, Douglas Tallamy added a tombstone for all of the cultivars of the Callery pear including the Bradford, Cleveland and handful of others.  His studies revealed how poor these trees are in hosting food sources for birds and other wildlife. In a talk for the Missouri Prairie Foundation, Tallamy discussed computations that a single family of chickadee babies will devour 9,000 caterpillars on their way to adulthood.  Those caterpillars like oak trees and other natives – Bradford pears, not so much.

As I wrote this article I contemplated the double row of Cleveland pears the former owners planted on my farm with a rueful smile.  They have fire blight and all must be removed.  I cannot blame myself or you for all the lacy ladies, those Bradford pears planted across our country.  We only went where we were led.  But I can pledge a new allegiance to serviceberry, redbuds and other native trees for beauty along my drive and food in the bellies of birds.  And when a grandchild uses my old chalkboard, I’ll teach them well about the shallow pleasures of a pretty face or flower alone.  Our landscape’s beauty is made of more substantial stuff.  

About the writer: Margo Farnsworth is a writer, biomimicry instructor and Fellow for the Biomimicry Institute. She invites readers into nature, offering strategic ways to live with wild neighbors through biomimicry and other practical methods.  Her work has appeared in the book Wildness: Relations of People & Place along with magazines such as The New Territory, EarthLines, TreeHugger and numerous blogs.