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Discover Nature: Callery Pear Trees

Callery pear trees with white flowers surround a field in early spring.
Callery pear trees cross-pollinate and form dense thickets of thorny, invasive nuisance trees which quickly choke out native plant communities.

Head outside in mid-April and you’ll notice many trees springing into bloom.

This week on Discover Nature, we pay special attention to an unwelcome invader: the Callery pear tree. 

Callery pears, which include the commonly known Bradford pear, are easily identifiable right now: deciduous trees reaching mature heights of 30-50 feet, with a pyramid-shaped crown covered in clusters of tiny white flowers with an unpleasant odor. 

Not to be confused with native dogwoods or serviceberries, these invasive cultivars have brittle limbs, and cross-pollination in the wild often produces new generations with large, ominous thorns. 

Callery pears grow well in nearly every type of soil and spread easily – even infiltrating dense woods, choking-out beneficial native trees and wildflowers in short order. 

Help stop the spread of these trees – DO NOT PLANT THEM – and consider replacing existing Callery pears with Missouri-native species such as dogwoods, serviceberries, redbuds, or sassafras. 

Learn more about the threat Callery pear trees pose to native plant and wildlife communities, and other native alternatives to replace these nuisance trees on your landscape with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide, tree care resource page, and the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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