Bradford Pear Trees Pose Growing Threat to Native Trees

By Linda Ong |

Published 05/03 2014 10:34PM

Updated 05/03 2014 10:44PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Bradford Pear trees are a common sight in the Ozarks.

"I come from here, and they're pretty common everywhere. You see them anywhere," said Jaimmee McCollum, a Springfield resident.

Early each spring, the tree blossoms into snowy-white spring flowers that bloom around March every year. McCollum said the tree is most notable by its white flowers.

"They are very pretty. They don't get really big. The white leaves stand out," she said. "It's just the smell that you got to get past."

Bradford Pear trees are popular along landscapes due to their aesthetics and affordability, but the Missouri Department of Conservation said they're doing more harm than good.

"It's a variety of a tree that people have planted in their yards that have gone rogue and it's popping up as invasive in a lot of rural areas," said Francis Skalicky, Media Specialist for the Missouri Dept. of Conservation. "It's crowding out native species and it's causing problems."

Bradford Pear trees are also known as callery pear trees. They have dark glossy leaves, grow quickly, and can thrive in different soil types. Skalicky said the trees threaten native greenery.

"The main problem is it crowds out a lot of native trees and native plants that are part of the other species," he said. "It cuts down on the biodiversity of the area. It basically takes over an area. It's a very aggressive growing tree."

The problem stems from the tree being over-planted and certain versions of callery pear seeds.

"These seeds have a high rate of germination. So you have a tree with a good method of seed distribution-- that would be birds," said Skalicky. "Seeds with a high rate of germination-- that causes problems."

Bradford pear trees typically bloom in early spring, so now they look like cone-shaped trees with green leaves.

Skalicky said he urges people to cut down or get rid of calvary pear trees, and to choose alternative trees for planting.

Trees that look similar to Bradford Pears and are less-invasive include many native plants-- like downy serviceberry, yellowwood, redbud, and hornbeam.

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