An easy way to know spring has arrived in St. Louis is to look to the budding Magnolia’s, Dogwood’s, and even the Bradford Pear–with their white almost snow-like blooms. Unfortunately, the Bradford (or Callery) Pear tree has met it’s end. It is an invasive species that is being cleared out of St. Louis
Origin Story: Callery Pear
The Callery Pear (more commonly called Bradford Pear) was originally introduced in the United States to help fight fire blight found in West Coast orchards (Culley & Hardiman, 2007). Fire blight is a contagious disease affecting apples, pears; and in the early 1900s orchards lost 86% of their crop to it.
In scientists’ search for a crop resistant to fire blight, the USDA brought over seeds from China by the hundreds of pounds (Culley & Hardiman, 2007). The USDA discovered a hearty, thornless, blossoming tree, that could be used ornamentally–enter the Callery Pear or more commonly called the Bradford Pear.
What’s the Problem?
According to the Washington Post, the Bradford tree was all the rage post-World War and a staple in many suburbs. It was purposefully introduced throughout the country on treeless, suburban streets. At the time, who could blame them? The tree blossomed with a flurry of snow-like flowers and it didn’t bear messy fruit.
With popularity comes cloning. New species of the tree were introduced throughout the country making it resistant to disease, pollution, and moisture, as well as, being adaptable to a variety of soils (Culley & Hardiman, 2007). It sounds like a dream! Unfortunately, this resistance and adaptability allows it to choke out native plants and thus decrease the biodiversity within a region. Auburn University also points out that Bradford begins to seed and flower at a young age, allowing the Bradford to grow quickly aiding in their ability to choke out surrounding plants.
Homeowners are also turning away from the tree because the tree can grow quite tall, however, the trunk remains thin and weak. Likewise, the branches are also brittle and break easily in storms and when high winds are present.
St. Louis: Looking for Solutions
Missouri is joining the growing list of states listing the tree as an invasive species, and is working to eliminate these trees. According to reporting done by the local Fox affiliate, the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force, and Forest Relief Missouri are working to spread awareness. The Task Force is urging Missourians to participate in a buy back program. Beginning April 26th, take a photo of yourself with a cut-down, in-bloom Callery/Bradford pear tree and bring it to the Forest Releaf CommuniTree Gardens Nursery at 2194 Creve Coeur Mill Rd. They will provide you with a new tree.
If you are unable to get a tree from Releaf, consider replacing with the Missouri Dogwood, which blooms white flowers in the spring and is native to the area.
Either way, do your part to get rid of the Callery/Bradford Tree in Missouri!