Starting Jan. 1, it is now illegal to sell, grow or plant callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) in Ohio. This comes after the tree was added to Ohio’s invasive species list – as per Ohio Administrative Code, Rule 901:5-30-01 – on Jan. 7, 2018. One exception to the rule indicated there would be a five-year grace period on the restriction of callery pear, allowing some leeway for nurseries and greenhouses which may need time to deal with their stock.
Callery pear was originally brought to the U.S. because of its disease-resistant qualities. Fruiting pears in the U.S. were falling victim to a bacterial disease commonly called fireblight. These two trees were cross-pollinated in hopes that the resulting offspring would produce nice fruits and have disease resistance. The offspring didn’t end up with those qualities, but they did have nice showy flowers with no fruits and glossy leaves. For these reasons, it was marketed as a landscape tree and given the name ‘Bradford’ pear. Many of you are probably more familiar with the name Bradford than callery.
Bradford pear was planted widespread across the U.S. as a landscape tree. It was fast-growing and great for planting in the small grass strips along roads. Bradford pear was also encouraged as a good replacement for dying native ash trees. Eventually, more callery cultivars were created and folks started to notice that these siblings to Bradford were beginning to produce fruits. As we all know – with fruits come seeds, and with seeds come widespread distribution by wildlife.
In the years following this discovery of small-but-mighty fruits on callery pear, trees started popping up along roadsides, in abandoned fields, within wetlands and in other natural areas. Eventually, the problem became so widespread that it was added to the invasive species list, as mentioned above. As I have mentioned before, there are several problems with non-native invasive species. To name a few, they often out-compete native plants for important resources, and they lack a natural control mechanism (disease, insects or animal browsing). This allows them to reproduce without the same limitations that native species encounter.
As you are driving this spring, look out your window to see if you notice any callery pear. In many areas, you will see the exact situation pictured in the provided photo – a planted landscape tree in the foreground and a background speckled with escaped callery pear, planted by wildlife seed dispersal. Although the law does not require the removal of callery pear trees on your property, we strongly recommend removing it – along with other invasive species – for the sake of our natural environment. Here are some great native plants to replace it with: Serviceberry, eastern redbud, flowering dogwood, and American hornbeam.
The moral of this story: we all make mistakes. Hopefully in 2023, you don’t make the mistake of planting or spreading invasive species. Call the OSU Extension – Vinton County office with any questions at 740-596-5212.