The future of Callery (Bradford) pear and our environment
By Gillian Field, member of Sycamore Land Trust, Indiana Native Plant Society, and MC-IRIS
You might recognize a Callery pear tree (Pryus calleryana) if I describe it as pretty tree with white flowers that blooms in early spring and looks like a lollipop. As neat, tidy and charming as it looks, it is an invasive species spreading along our highways, back yards and forests.
Often spread by invasive starlings, the large number of fruits the tree produces can establish dense stands in forest understories and outcompete native trees.
A cultivated designer tree, Callery pear is ecologically sterile and causes a host of negative environmental and economic impacts. Many people do not know the potential costs suffered by allowing a pretty tree to exist for its appearance alone, nor do they realize the alarming extent to which this one is spreading.
In addition to new plants still being sold by nurseries, the more serious threat comes from allowing current stands of callery Pear plants to thrive in our yards, right-of-way areas, in fields and in uncared for and unnoticed pockets of land.
Due to spreading infestations, Callery Pear is no longer planted by the City of Bloomington, and it is disallowed in new developments by the City’s Unified Development Ordinance. Erin Hatch, Urban Forester with the City of Bloomington, is the best person to contact to remove Callery pear located in sidewalk green strips and other right-of-way areas. These are considered city trees. Erin notes, “If adjacent property owners wish to conduct tree work, such as removal of these trees, at their own cost, they can submit a tree work permit application, found on the webpage for the City’s Urban Forest.”
The TreeKeeper website is also a good resource. This is an online inventory of almost all of our street trees and some of our park trees.
It is worth being aware of services Callery pear and native trees offer. They capture carbon and particulate matter, reduce heat, cooling costs, and improve stormwater functions. These services are important to our wellbeing, although in the case of Callery pear, they are not reasons to allow these species to continue to grow and propagate. A tree canopy, predominately of invasive Callery pear, is not a substitute for a native tree canopy.
To offset the reduced services by removing Callery Pear trees, it is essential to replace them with ecologically beneficial native trees is. Whether you prefer a manicured yard or not, Indiana Native Plant Society is a great resource to help you learn the right plants for your site conditions adding beauty and charm to any yard. As you are able, please take the steps towards removing your invasive Callery Pear in your neighborhood, church grounds and business to protect and preserve Indiana’s incredible native biodiversity.
“As keystone species here in southern Indiana, oak trees are an ideal choice for native tree plantings,” said Mary Welz, Sycamore Land Trust’s Education Director. This includes bur, chinkapin, northern red, pin, scarlet, shingle, Shumard, swamp white, or white oak. Other native trees that are excellent alternatives to Callery pear include American basswood, American hornbeam, American plum, black gum, cockspur hawthorn, eastern hophornbeam, eastern redbud, flowering dogwood, pagoda dogwood, smooth serviceberry, sweetgum, and yellowwood.
Callery (Bradford) Pear Pryus calleryana
Description: Deciduous tree to 30 feet tall; leaves alternate, ovate, smooth, finely toothed and wavy-edged, shiny green above and paler below; flowers white, 5 petals, in dense clusters, unpleasant odor; small round, brown fruits.
Problem: Produces large numbers of fruits which are spread by starlings; can establish densely in forest understory and outcompete native trees.
Native Alternatives: Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis and A. arborea), redbud (Cercis canadensis), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). Read below for more beneficial, native alternatives.
Want more information on Callery Pear, including how to control it, where to report it outside of cultivation and what to plant instead? Visit this page at MC-IRIS.org http://mc-iris.org/callery-pear-aka-bradford-pear.html
Gillian Field is a member of Sycamore Land Trust, INPS (Indiana Native Plant Society) and MC-IRIS, also known as Monroe County — Identify and Reduce Invasive Species, a coalition of citizens aimed at reducing the environmental and economic impact of invasive plant species in the county. This article was printed in-part in the Herald Times, April 2021.