White-blossomed pear has dark, thorny invasive side
By Mary Hightower
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Bradford pear easily spreads, now seen as invasive
- Can be found in pastures, lots, anywhere sun shines
- Control can be difficult
LITTLE ROCK – With angelic white blossoms that transform the spring landscape, flamboyant foliage in fall and abilities to tolerate air pollution and resist disease, the Bradford pear became a favorite choice in commercial and home landscapes.
However, this beauty has a nightmarish side, said Tamara Walkingstick, extension forester and assistant director of the Arkansas Forest Resource Center of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“We hear from our county agents of out-of-state residents who call and ask ‘what is that beautiful tree blooming everywhere on the interstate?’” she said. “What they’re seeing is a tree gone amok – one that is now considered an invasive species in Arkansas.”
The tree, one of several cultivars of the Callery pear, was brought to the West from China in the late 1800s as a small ornamental. Over the years, more cultivars of the pear were developed with an eye toward strengthening its weak branch structure. The breeding also moved the pear away from being a non-fruiting tree that was cloned for sale in the trade, to being one that produced lots of fruit and lots of seed.
The tree can spread both by seeds and vegetatively through sprouts from the base. The tree’s white blossoms are now almost ubiquitous in any place where the sun shines – parks, highway rights of way, vacant lots, even areas under partially open forest canopies.
The same toughness that made it such a good choice in heavily trafficked landscapes, also makes the pear an aggressive spreader. And there’s one more dimension to this pear’s dark side – it produces stiff thorns as long as 3 inches. These aggressive trees can quickly crowd out native species.
“This widespread invasion creates problems for farmers, ranchers, or anyone managing acreage,” Walkingstick said. “The invasive plants are very difficult to control. Mowing them, if you don't pick up a thorn that will blow your tires, only creates more sprouts from the base.”
Girdling of mature trees can be an effective control (See U.S. Forest Service fact sheet on control at http://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/invasive_plants/weeds/callery_pear.pdf). Herbicides can also be effective. Be sure to use according to label instructions.
For more information about invasive species, visit www.arinvasives.org.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service