Although April is Ohio Native Plant Month, this is the time of year when local streets and yards are lined with the white blooms of Callery Pear trees.
However, the flowering tree is about to be banned from being sold or planted in Ohio, starting January 2023. Ohio is the first state to ban the sale of the invasive tree species, which tends to aggressively spread and crowd out native plants.
The trees are also known as Bradford Pears or sometimes Cleveland Select, which are common types of the Callery Pear trees.
Callery Pear Trees are blooming all over, but this tree is bad for our area. They're non-native, has white flowers & is highly invasive. They choke out native plants & are hard to control. To manage, cut them down & treat stumps. Replace them w/ Serviceberry, Redbud or Dogwoods. pic.twitter.com/yDj8xt0F1D
— Cincinnati Parks (@CincyParks) March 30, 2022
Their spread is most apparent this time of year, when the white blooms can be seen crowding into abandoned fields, along highways and into wooded areas.
“You’ll see it a lot of times in a vacant lot that maybe was disturbed by construction and then left sitting. And then you can see thousands of pear seedlings coming up and they really just take over,” said Dan Kenny, Ohio Department of Agriculture chief of the division of plant health.
Robert Siebenthaler, president of Siebenthaler’s, said for the average homeowner, not planting any new trees and not propagating their current trees are the most effective things they can do.
However, property owners don’t have to remove existing trees in their yards, because the new law only applies to banning new trees from being sold and planted. And realistically, Siebenthaler said the trees are already spreading everywhere.
“It’s a case of too little, too late. One person cutting down their pear trees is not really going to stem the tide, and I don’t think that is the recommended course of action,” he said.
The non-native plant originally was found in east Asia, was brought over to the U.S. around the 1950s. It grew in popularity for decades as an ornamental tree that’s tolerant enough to get established and quickly grow in many locations.
But then the trees started spreading from where they were planted and around much of the country, crowding out native plants.
The trees also can come with some additional turnoffs like a tendency for their branches to split, especially among the Bradford variety.
“It is part of the reason why folks aren’t too upset to see them go, because they do have some structural problems as they get bigger,” Kenny said.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources added Callery pears and all their varieties to its list of invasive species in 2018 and gave five years for tree nurseries to phase in the change.
Siebenthaler said there are alternatives and native varieties that people can plant instead, and local gardening centers will be able to advise what will grow well in an area. Lilac trees and serviceberry trees are examples of options, and he said both flower and have similar attributes to the Callery Pear.