Trees are in full bloom across Southeast Missouri, and among them are the ornamental Bradford pear. Although these symmetrical trees yield beautiful, bright white blooms, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is advising the public against planting them this spring.
The invasive species, which is native to Asian countries, has reached what the department calls “critical mass” within the last several years.
Rocky Hayes, forestry supervisor for MDC’s southeast region, says although Bradford pears are ideal for landscaping, they have become aggressive and threaten species that are native to Missouri.
“It produces seed which birds and other forms of wildlife carry to a farmer's field or an unimproved pasture, and then they become problematic for the farmers,” says Hayes. “They start invading other tree species out.”
Because of this, the fast-growing tree can be seen popping up along roadsides, in fields, and places where Hayes says they “weren’t planted by us.”
He says so many have been planted that they’ve actually cross-pollinated, causing them to bear fruit that is viable, a characteristic they were not supposed to have years ago.
Bradford pears have also been shown to have a genetic structural problem. Limb angles on the tree tend to be shallow, making it easy for them to break or split off. This causes the tree to fall easily in strong winds and ice storms. Here in the Midwest, they are lucky to survive 10 to 15 years.
Hayes says several varieties work equally well as alternatives, such as the eastern redbud, dogwood, crabapple, rusty blackhaw, wild plum, and magnolia.
For more information on native Missouri tree care, visit mdc.mo.gov/tree-health.