It’s not easy to nurture trees for eight years, pampering them so they can take hold in what little soil they can find in our rocky Ozark ground. But it’s even harder to cut them down and yank their roots out of the ground with a tractor, knowing that all your hard work has been wasted!
Who would do such a crazy thing? My neighbors, Karen and Herman Lorenz, and they are to be commended for their actions! Their property has a commanding view of the “hills and hollers” along the Jacks Fork River. They also border a piece of Rocky Creek Conservation Area. Their house and yard is beautiful, and Karen has planted a number of trees to provide shade and fruit for the animals. Unfortunately, four of the trees she had planted were callery pears, sold to her as the “Cleveland Select Ornamental pear."
The original cultivar of ornamental pears, the "Bradford" pear, did not produce fruit, but was very weak-branched. Many newer cultivars were developed to address this issue, but they have cross-pollinated one another, and the result is fruit-producing trees. Karen's thriving trees were covered in tiny, cherry-sized pears, just the size a bird would love to eat. That might be great for the birds, but it’s a menace for the natural integrity of the surrounding woodlands and forests.
Callery pears are appearing in natural areas throughout the state, creating a white haze of blossoms in the early springtime. They leaf out far earlier than our native trees and shrubs and hold their leaves longer in the fall, shading out and smothering many of our native wildflowers. They sprout and grow very rapidly in either shade or sun, outcompeting our native oaks. In sunny areas, like old fields or prairies, they rapidly become a monoculture. Even fruitless trees are a problem: when their weak branches inevitably break apart, they re-sprout from the rootstock, creating a thorny, fruit-producing tree.
Karen was very sad to hear that her trees were such a menace, and no doubt didn’t want to hear that she should kill them! She might have hesitated, but then the guy at the feed store confirmed my opinion, telling her what a scourge the trees had become on his property. She and Herman yanked them from the ground that very afternoon. She also removed two small mimosa trees that she had nurtured (another invasive exotic tree). Thank you, Karen and Herman!
It isn’t wrong to have a few exotic plants in your garden. But if the exotic you are growing produces fruit or berries that are carried by the birds or the wind, your vine, bush or tree has the potential to start a serious problem and threatens our native wildflowers, be brave: yank it up and plant a native!