Callery Pear - A Crap Tree
I had a writeup on another topic ready and scheduled to post, then I got a text message from my sister-in-law. A large Callery pear in her front yard had been toppled by a rare late April snow event and she wanted me to assess the damage the fall caused to her neighbor's lilac. During the trip to her house it was obvious other trees had been damaged -- mostly Callery pears. No surprise, this species (Pyrus calleryana) is prone to losing large limbs and being toppled. This includes ALL its varieties/cultivars, e.g., Bradford, Cleveland Select, Chanticleer, Jack, Aristocrat. I describe the history of this extremely invasive non-native and damage prone tree in my book in Chapter 96 -- The Worst of the Worst. Besides its propensity to fracture, due to narrow crotch angles, Callery's develop thorns, produce a messy load of fruit, and the desired and lauded spring white flowers smell like dead fish. Who in their right mind wants a split susceptible tree with flowers that smells like fish? The "but it is so pretty" argument falls on its face like this crap tree in a wind or snowstorm.
Callery pear is not a plant we should want. Many communities and some states have banned it. Nonetheless, it is a favorite of developers. Additionally, many people continue to ask for this "pretty" at garden centers. Accordingly, legislators in Indiana, with a long history of making bonehead decisions, recently decided not to ban the "pretty." In reality, such legislation would largely be a symbolic act since this pear is now naturalized, but the legislation would have helped. The tree is a fast-growing and short-lived species which is here to stay, and it is becoming a more widespread problem every year. Preventing more from being planted would be like asking a person with lung cancer to stop smoking. A smart move, but habits are hard to break. Maybe we will get lucky and discover that periodical cicadas really like Callery pear (see my April rant).
Understand that 99%+ of the literally thousands of non-native/exotic species we encounter at garden centers are not invasive, but a few are simply terrible. Since the politicians (and many citizens) will not do the right thing, those of us who care about the natural landscape need to take action. One of my favorite movies is the 1976 classic Network in which the main character (Howard Beale) repeatedly rants, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." Similarly, the action I am referring to regarding this crap plant is a boycott of any garden center that displays or offers it for sale. We need to send a Beale-like message and we need to send it loud and clear. Enough already. Should you see any on premise or offered for sale, sound the alarm. The message -- get rid of the plant(s) and stop promoting it or we will not shop your business and we will tell others to do the same. If education does not work, we will try humiliation. Resist and we might even picket. We have no trouble with garden centers turning a profit but NOT if there is a negative environmental consequence from the business. This message also should apply to any of the relatively small number of non-native invasive species that are difficult to eradicate, capable of naturalizing here and are causing an ecological nightmare. The list includes, but is not limited to: wintercreeper, English ivy, periwinkle, Chinese silver grass, bamboo, Japanese barberry, python vine/Asian bittersweet, Asian bush honeysuckle, Japanese honeysuckle, blunt-leaved privet, Japanese knotweed and burning bush (which should be renamed BURN THE BUSH). For a complete list of illegal species see in.gov Terrestrial Invasive Species. There is also a list of awful (and illegal) aquatic species. You can also find some of these troublesome plants discussed in previous Rants.
Another action you could take, if you are part of a HOA (Homeowners Association), is getting it banned from your community. Callery pear decreases your property value and puts you at greater risk for an insurance claim. Did I mention that the pretty flowers smell like dead fish? There are better species you could and should consider.