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]Read More
“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.
1. Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw Viburnum)
2. Prunus americana (Wild Plum)
3. Ostrya virginiana (Ironwood or Eastern Hophornbeam)
4. Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud)
5. Amelanchier arborea (Serviceberry)
6. Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam)
7. Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)
8. Nyssa sylvatica (Black Gum)
9. Cladrastis kentukea (Yellowwood)
10. Prunus virginiana (Chokeberry or Chokecherry)
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!
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.