AlterNATIVES to Callery or Bradford Pear
By Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
Considering finally removing Callery pear trees from your property? Congrats! You’re taking a major step in the control of invasive species not only in your yard, but everywhere. These trees create small fruits with seeds that are transported by birds. By removing this species from your yard, you’re not only protecting you and your neighbor’s properties but also helping to conserve some of our beautiful parks and public lands.
Callery pear has largely been used as an attractive landscaping tree for new houses and neighborhood developments due to their fast-growing nature and attractive, shiny leaves. While they do have some positive qualities their poor structure, shallow roots, strong smelling flowers, and invasive qualities make them a nuisance in the home landscape.
Callery pear vs Bradford pear
You may have heard several different names for this tree, but what is the difference?
They’re actually all the same species, but different cultivars. A cultivar is a subcategory of a species that was bred for specific traits—Almost like different flavors of the exact same dish. Here is where those names come from:
Although callery pear cultivars are bred to be sterile, they can cross pollinate with other cultivars and with the original callery pear. Each time cross pollination happens, the species DNA revert closer and closer to the original callery pear species—thorns and all. This creates a positive feedback loop where cultivars cross pollinate, produce seeds that are scattered around by birds, the seeds grow into trees, and then those trees provide another mechanism for the cross pollination of the cultivar trees. These seeds that escape intentional landscapes can grow into fast growing and aggressive thickets.
This article won't go into detail about how to identify these plants. For more information, visit the links below or reach out to our office with questions.
If you have several callery pear trees on your property, you may have questions on what to work on first. As a general rule, you’ll want to remove any trees that are mature enough to produce fruit. Once they are removed from the property, there will be less seeds being produced, and it might lessen the number of saplings you have to remove from around the property. Alternatively, if you have several smaller trees growing you may want to remove them while they are young and still easy to manage. Callery pear is a fast-growing tree. Over the span of a year a tree might grow from hand pullable to requiring tools and herbicide. Or, over several years a tree might grow from being manageable on your own to requiring the help of a contractor or arborist.
There are a few methods for removal
Some smaller saplings may be able to be pulled by hand, or with the help of a tool like the puller bar from our tool loan program. You might find small trees in your landscaping, along fence lines, or in areas with bare soil and low traffic (around foundations, electric boxes, etc).
The herbicide suggestions in this section are based on the current best practices used by invasive species groups in Indiana. Other herbicides can be used but be aware of the herbicide’s half-life in the soil and relative safety. When using herbicides, the label is the law. When using any chemical control products, always read the entire pesticide label carefully, follow all mixing and application instructions, and wear all personal protective gear and clothing specified. For chemical control near waterways and/or where surface runoff into waterways is a concern, you are required to select aquatic label formulations of herbicides and adjuvants.
Native plants are key when you want to provide habitat and food for native wildlife and pollinators, have more colorful natural areas, and prevent the spread of invasive species. Some options are included below. For information on where to purchase these plants, check our webpage Where to Buy Native Plants
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