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

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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 and Forrest Keeling Nursery 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, located in Creve Coeur Park (2194 Creve Coeur Mill Rd SOUTH, from Hwy 141/Maryland Heights Expressway) 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]

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 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on April 26, 2019. We have 500 native trees available, but they may go fast; you may call ahead day-of to 417-299-1794 or 314-956-2561 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?

Our hope is that the St. Louis Callery pear Buy-back is a smashing success so we can make a case for taking the program to other parts of the state in 2020.

However, the event in St. Louis is our only pilot location for the Buy-back model. 

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.

In fact, we are compiling a web page highlighting the commitments and work different state agencies are doing to address invasive plants. We hope to have this online before our next quarterly meeting July 9, 2019. Stay tuned, and thanks for your interest!

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

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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

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.