Bradford, Callery pear trees on the chopping block for Missouri and Kansas

Bradford pear and Callery pear trees are on the chopping block in the states of Kansas and Missouri. 

The invasive trees from Asia, known for their off-putting fishy scent, have been considered an ornamental species for decades and were brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s.

In an effort to combat the species, the Missouri Invasive Plant Council has joined forces with Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, Forrest Keeling Nursery and the Missouri Department of Conservation to establish a Callery pear buyback program.

Missouri residents who have Callery pear trees on their property are eligible to receive a free native tree after registering here and submitting a picture of their removed tree. Registration is open until April 15. Participants are required to collect their new tree on April 23 at designated locations in their region.

Among the 26 cultivars, Callery pear trees pose ecological concerns. The limbs of the Callery and Bradford pear typically grow in a vertical manner, taking the shape of an egg or pyramid. The height of mature trees can range from 30 to 40 feet. Identifying the trees becomes simple once they begin blooming in early April. Clusters of white flowers densely cover the tree before leaves emerge.

Previously, the Bradford pear was seen as a non-invasive species that bore non-edible fruit. The cross pollination of other cultivars has negative effects on native plant and tree species, creating a toxic environment. Birds and other methods facilitate the rapid spread of the trees.

The MoIP defines an invasive species as any non-native plant that rapidly spreads and inflicts environmental and economic damage.

Forests and woodlands are frequently invaded by the trees, which causes ecological damage to native plants that form the basis of the food chain for game animals like turkey, deer, and songbirds.

“Think of a beautiful forest in Missouri with oaks and hickories,” Carol Davit, a chair for MoIP said. “Many people make a living off harvesting oak and hickory trees. The forest products industry is a significant part of our economy. It employs over 40,000 people. If there are invasive plants like Callery pears invading our native oak and hickory forests, young oak and hickory trees can get shaded out by these invasive trees. It is a threat to hardwood regeneration.”

Callery pear trees were placed under quarantine by Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Michael M. Beam last month. As of Jan. 1, 2027, it will be forbidden for the trees to move into Kansas. Those who bring the tree into the state will be subject to criminal charges.

Missouri has yet to pass an official law outlawing the tree. HB1555 was pre-filed by Missouri Rep. Bruce Sassmann, R-Bland, in 2023 to establish a roster of non-native and invasive plants. The bill proposes the Missouri Department of Agriculture should be able to establish and update a watchlist of potentially invasive plants. The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Conservation and Natural Resources, but there has been no further action. The bill’s hearing date has yet to be determined.

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