Uh Oh

Trees are blooming here in the Cincinnati area. On a recent trip to downtown I pointed them out to a friend who is sight impaired. Even she was able to see them carpeting hillsides and valleys. Later that night we were driving home and in the street lights I saw white trees and immediately thought, “Oh look the trees are covered with snow!” Ha! I was so wrong. It was 45 degrees and I was simply seeing the Bradford Pears reflecting the street lights. The joke was on me. If you are not familiar with Bradford Pears they are also call Callery Pears. They have become invasive in Ohio and likely other parts of the USA, too.

“Unfortunately, the majority of the Callery Pear that you are seeing, or smelling, were not planted, and you will continue to find more and more of them every year that were not planted by people, but instead, spread by birds and animals. While the tree lawns in cities are littered with trees that were planted, you can basically stick these trees in any kind of soil, and they will grow. What is even more disturbing is to find these trees popping up in otherwise untouched wilderness areas, far away from where anyone would have originally planted one. Once they are established areas, they begin to choke out native plant species and become thick, deep rooted stands of trees that are frustratingly difficult and expensive to control.

They are invasive to the point that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources added the Callery/Bradford pear to the states invasive species listing in in 2018. In 2023 it will be illegal to buy or plant this species in Ohio. This is a good move; it is just about 20 years late. The ones planted are spreading exponentially and are causing serious problems if not kept in check. Though originally thought that they did breed to not bear fruit, they do. Birds gorge on the plentiful, but low energy fruit then dropping the seeds in their waste everywhere and the next tree takes off creating an endless and devastating cycle. Callery/Bradford pears are weak structured with steep “V” notched branches that are prone to breaking off in ice, snow, and windy conditions. They will get to roughly 10 to 15 years old and then start falling apart. The other issue is the waxy leaves decompose very slowly causing headaches in landscape and street tree settings, as well as compost piles.”


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