Sunday, April 12, 2015

Callery Pear and Its Cultivars

A cultivar of Callery Pear in bloom.

     This time of year, the presence of Callery Pear becomes quite evident. Overshadowing the magnolias and foreign cherries also in bloom, these invasive plants really dominate the landscape, particularly along edges and old fields. They are quite beautiful actually, despite the flowers' smell that some people dislike. This along with their quick and compact growth, "pest free" nature, and tolerance for such a wide array of soil and environmental conditions, make it an extremely popular landscape plant. That it was also self-incompatible, so would not produce messy fruits, was also considered a plus. 

Bradford Pear, a Callery Pear cultivar, with its flowers.

     However, most of these traits also make for an invasive species. This would not have been an issue if they did not reproduce, but that particular trait failed. Although the various cultivars, especially the popular Bradford Pear, could not reproduce with their own type of cultivar, so many different cultivars were planted that they indeed do cross pollinate each other. So these have now become an invasive tree species.

Callery Pear fruits and leaves.

Callery Pear escapees invading a forest edge.

     You can really see how invasive they are this time of year when the white blooms make these plants evident all over our countrysides. They are pioneering species in fields and meadows, sometimes forming monoculture forests. Trying to manage and control their numbers costs natural resource agencies a fortune, but is necessary to preserve habitats. You can do your part to eliminate seedlings, supporting local management efforts, and of course not planting any of the cultivars of Callery Pear. Be observant next time you're out and see for yourself just how dominant they are.
     There are so many reasons not to plant this tree besides besides their invasive tendencies that out compete native plants and crowd them out. Their pest free nature actually means that they do not support much in the way of native wildlife, no where near what native flora can support. The woody fruits (pears) are eaten by birds once frost softens them, that is how these are spread. But by my own personal observations, it seems that European Starlings are among the birds who do this the most. They do not provide as much as native plants, but often are one the few options left. The wood is also fairly weak and prone to breaking and dropping branches. All in all, there are much better native landscaping options available.

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