You’re a handsome tree, Callery pear. But you stink.
In more ways than one.
Agricultural explorer Frank N. Meyer sent Callery pear tree seeds from China to the United States more than a century ago. In China, he observed the insect-resistant, hardy Callery pear surviving despite drought and poor soil. It seemed perfectly suited for the United States, a nation then facing an uphill battle with fire blight. That bacterial disease ravaged pear orchards.
Myer’s vision caught on. Some people still plant Callery pears (and their descendant trees, including the Bradford pear) in their yards.
But certain states ban the trees altogether. Officials tell homeowners to chop them down.
Why? Because Callery pears are native to China, not North America. The trees produce marble-sized, inedible fruits that squish on sidewalks and feed starlings and robins, which spread the seeds widely through their droppings. This produces wild Callery pear trees in undesirable locations. They form impassable thickets if not guided by gardeners. The invasive pears overwhelm native plants and sport nasty, four-inch spikes. Seedlings only a few months old bear spurs that can punch through tractor tires. Herbicide doesn’t kill the trees. Chop them down and they just sprout new buds.
Plus, the trees’ billowing white blossoms reek like perfume gone wrong, rotting fish, chlorine, or a cheese sandwich left in a car for a week.
“They’re a real menace,” says Jerrod Carlisle. He and a neighbor had just five of the trees in their yards in Indiana. These spawned thousands of others on 50 acres.
Carlisle is trying to turn that land into a forest full of native plants—and he has the right idea. God made animals and plants to live in certain places where they have the nutrients they need to survive. They also become food for other native creatures. This relationship keeps their populations from getting out of control.
Did you know you can “go native” in your own backyard?
Lure pollinators so your garden will produce flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Choose native plants, which local pests will recognize as food. These plants don’t need much maintenance: They’ve been doing quite nicely growing wild by the side of the road, thank you, and they’ll do the same in your garden. Find out what’s native to your location online at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Biota of North America Program, the Xerces Society, or the Audubon Native Plants Database.
Why? God made plants to flourish—and stay under control—in the places He designed for them. When humans mistakenly disrupt the balance, it’s wise to try to make repairs.