If you drive through most small communities, ornamental Bradford pear trees are everywhere, covered this time of year in white flowers. They remind me of Washington D.C.'s Japanese cherry blossoms, which also bloom about the same time.
Blooming ornamental pears, no matter how lovely they may be, are no longer welcome, at least not in Missouri. According to Missouri's Department of Conservation, Bradford pear trees are bad trees and need to be removed.
The reason? Apparently these trees have gone -- well, rogue.
Ornamental pears were originally very popular. I can remember reading gardening magazines extolling their virtues - prolific spring flowers, dark glossy leaves, and, even better for planting in Missouri - the ability to thrive in almost any kind of soil. These pears were also considered desirable because people thought they were sterile and therefore had no messy fruits.
Now we know that's not true. When planting pear trees together, they do cross-pollinate and spread. They also produce a tiny, inedible fruit which helps them spread.
Moreover, some of the new wild pear trees are bringing back characteristics of the original callery pear trees from China, such as very large, stout thorns, making a field filled with these trees difficult to clear.
In addition to being difficult to manage, these rogue pear trees are crowding out and shading native plants, which already have more than enough competition from other sources.
Not sure if you have unruly pears?
Ornamental pears are one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring; they have tight crowns and white flowers, just like regular or hybrid pears. They also retain their leaves until late autumn. They prefer full sun so will be found most often in open areas. Late in the fall, their leaves turn red to purple, and their bark is either a gray or brown with small, white marks.
If you do have these pear trees, make sure to prune any sprouts that grow from the base of the tree. Missouri Department of Conservation advises pruning will prevent crossbreeding with the sprouts and tree itself; then consider planting a different species when this one gets diseased or dies.
If you like pear trees, I recommend dwarf, or if you want something larger, a compact variety. I have a very well-behaved compact pear tree off my driveway. The white spring flowers are just as lovely as ornamental pears, and in fall every other year I share delicious pears with friends, family and a squirrel, or two...
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News - St. James Leader Journal - Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.