MDC recommends avoiding invasive Callery pear tree during spring planting

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Callery pear trees are easily spotted in springtime in open natural areas and along roadsides, such as this one in Jefferson City. The invasive tree spreads quickly and crowds out native plants. MDC urges the public to avoid this non-native species during springtime planting. Photo courtesy MDC

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The spring season is underway and many Missouri plants and trees will be blooming with life and color. Unfortunately, one invasive tree species will soon be prominent along roadways and other natural open areas: the Callery pear tree. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) urges the public to avoid this nonnative tree species when shopping for a new tree this spring.

The Callery pear, also known as the Bradford pear, Cleveland Select, Autumn Blaze, or Aristocrat, is a highly invasive tree that multiples quickly and crowds out Missouri native plants.

“The Callery pear rose to fame as a popular ornamental landscape tree in the 1960s because it was inexpensive, it grew fast, and it provided white blooms in the spring,” said MDC Forestry Field Programs Supervisor Russell Hinnah. “But that’s where the list of benefits ends. Different varieties of the tree were planted close to each other, they cross-pollinated, and spread everywhere.”

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Callery pears’ ability to cross-pollinate is why many roadsides, rights-of-way, parks, and other natural areas are filled with white blooms every spring.

The trees are infamous for the stinky smell, but also have poor branch structure. They don’t fare well in bad weather, often losing limbs or splitting apart.

MDC encourages homeowners and landscapers to grow native when picking a tree to plant this spring.

“The best decision is to plant a tree species native to Missouri, and there are several great trees to substitute,” said Hinnah. “Serviceberry trees produce similar white blooms in the spring and they have small red fruits that attract wildlife.”

Other great alternatives include American plum, hawthorn, eastern redbud, and Missouri’s state tree, the flowering dogwood. Hawthorns provide bountiful fruit and attractive fall color, while dogwoods thrive in shady areas, but can be difficult to grow.

Missouri’s state tree, the flowering dogwood (pictured), is a great alternative to the Callery pear and produces similar white blooms in the spring. Photo courtesy MDC

Learn more about native trees and landscaping on your property online at https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/tree-care.

CALLERY PEAR BUY-BACK EVENTS

Missourians with Callery pear trees on their property have the opportunity to cut down their trees and receive a free, noninvasive tree in return at several “buy-back” events around the state on April 18. The events are made possible through partnerships with the Missouri Invasive Plant Council, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, Forrest Keeling Nursery, and MDC.

Registration will be open beginning March 15. To qualify, participants must submit a photo of their cut-down Callery pear online. One free native tree will be provided to each registered participant at the selected location on April 18 from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Participating cities include:

  • St. Louis
  • Columbia
  • Cape Girardeau
  • Poplar Bluff
  • Springfield
  • Joplin
  • Lebanon
  • Hannibal
  • Kansas City

For more information on the buy-back events and how to register, visit moinvasives.org.

To learn about native trees for landscaping, planting tips, backyard tree care, and more helpful information, visit https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/tree-care.

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