SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Conservation is working to combat the growing problem of invasive Callery pear trees.

Francis Skalicky with the Missouri Department of Conservation said the department is teaming up with the Missouri Invasive Plant Council and the Missouri Forest Relief Forest ReLeaf to hold the first Callery Pear Buy Back Event on Tuesday, April 26.

Callery Pears, more commonly known as “Bradford pears” are native to China and Taiwan and used to be popular for landscaping because of their pretty white blooms in early spring. According to Skalicky, that’s where the positives end.

“They are very scenic during their blooming period,” said Skalicky. “That is why they’ve become so popular but along with that popularity is a lot of baggage.”

A single wild tree can spread quickly by seed and vegetative means, often forming dense thickets within several years and outcompeting with native plants.

What is a Callery Pear Tree?

Bradford pear is a cultivar of Pyrus calleryana. It is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 60 feet in height and 2 feet in diameter.

The tree was brought over to the United States in 1917 for hybridization with fruiting pears to improve disease resistance. Then in the early 1960’s more trees were brought to America as ornamental lawn trees.

According to Skalicy, it was thought that the cultivars were sterile, which means the tree would not reproduce. However, there was a problem with this theory.

“The issue was that when one cultivar and another cultivar crossed that was not sterile,” said Skalicky. “If a Bradford Pear crossed with another Bradford pear that is a sterile cross. However, if a Bradford Pear crossed with an Aristocrat that is non-sterile.”

Not only does this tree damage the habitat for wildlife it’s actually dangerous for homeowners to have in their yard.

“On the conservation side, when these native plants and trees get crowded out it hurts habitats,” said Skalicky. “On the non-conservation side, the issue is you have a tree that is pretty brittle. And outside of its blooming period can be pretty problematic.”

How to help with this growing problem?

Here’s how to participate in the buy-back program: Cut down the Callery Pear Tree in your yard. Then, take a picture of it and submit it for a free replacement tree that’s native to Missouri. The event will be at the Missouri Department of Conservation Southwest Regional Office. Residents are encouraged to pre-register so they can reserve their replacement tree.

You can learn more about Callery Pear Trees and other invasive plants here.

The department recommends planting native trees such as:

  • American plum
  • Flowering dogwood
  • Eastern redbud
  • Hawthorn
  • Serviceberry