Consider replacing illegal — and stinky — Callery Pear

Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana, and its cultivars (examples include Bradford, Cleveland Select, Chanticleer) are officially on the Ohio Invasive Plants List.

On Jan. 7, it became illegal to plant, grow, propagate or sell Callery Pear in Ohio. It is now deemed to be an invasive species in many states and similar bans have gone into effect in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

What does this mean if you have one or more ornamental pears growing in your landscape?

Though it is illegal in Ohio to purchase ornamental pears, this does not mean you need to cut down or remove existing ornamental pear trees. Like all ornamental trees, their typical life span is 25-30 years.

However, with an arguably stinky flower, messy fruit, weak branch angles and its tendency to break up during storms, maybe it is worth considering a replacement tree.

Callery Pear is a small, deciduous flowering tree native to China that that was originally brought to the United States as a source of resistance to the disease fire blight, Erwinia amylovora. It became popular as a landscape tree for its white flowers, site adaptability, and compact size.

Individual ornamental pears trees cannot self-pollinate or produce fruit. However, they can and do pollinate with other Pyrus calleryana selections, including domesticated pears, resulting in fertile fruits.

This resulted in the trees spread by birds and wildlife, feeding on the fruit, and depositing the seeds that do not break down in their digestive tract. The seeds germinate and grow new ornamental pears which soon choke out native plants and invade forested areas. This is the reason behind the ban in Ohio and surrounding states.

Often the reason we plant trees is because of certain characteristics we like. In the case of the ornamental pear, it may be due to the early spring white flowers. It may also have been planted as a replacement to the Ash tree, Fraxinus spp. Both Ash trees and ornamental pears grow and thrive in heavy compacted soils that are common in the urban environment.

If you are considering replacing an ornamental pear or are looking for trees that have white flowers and thrive in our urban environments, here are a few recommendations.

Serviceberry, Amelanchier spp. is an Ohio native with four seasons of landscape interest. It is available as a large, multi-stemmed shrub or trained to a small tree with average height of 15-25 feet with an oval to round crown. It has crisp white flower in early spring, In addition to flowers, the blue-green foliage of summer transforms into shades of gold to reddish orange in autumn, making it, one of our finest native trees for fall color.

Love them or hate them, crabapples can be a suitable replacement for Callery pear. There are hundreds of types of crabapples varying in size, bloom time, color and shape. For those wanting white flowers some of my favorites include Adirondack, Donald Wyman, Sargent Crabapple, and Tina

If you like Dogwoods, then an often-underused species is the Cornus kousa. This dogwood has all season interests with its exfoliating bark, edible pink fruit, and white flowers. The showy white “flower petals” are bracts that ring the smaller yellow-green true flowers at the center, which produce beautiful raspberry-like reddish fruit that last into autumn and attract wildlife. Leaves generally have good scarlet to red-purple color in fall and the bark exfoliates with age to reveal several shades of orange, tan, and gray for all season interest.

Another white flowering small tree is the Ivory Silk Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata ssp. Reticulata Ivory Silk) This non-native from Japan has become a common replacement as a street tree instead of the Callery Pear. This tree reaches a height of 20-30 at maturity with an oval crown. The white panicles of creamy white flowers are attractive to a variety of pollinators. This plant has low maintenance requirements. It can tolerate salt, pollution and urban conditions and is pH adaptable.

Of course, there are many other trees that can be suitable alternatives to Callery Pear. These were just a few white-flowered options for the Ohio landscape. Have conversations with your local nursery and see what they are having success with and might suggest for your landscape.