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

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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.

 

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.