A nice article on the invasion of Bradford Pear in Illinois from Chris Young of the Peoria Journal Star.
See original article HERE.
Land Invasion: Bradford Pear Tree
by Chris Young, Peoria Journal Star
It’s a stealthy invader cloaked in beautiful white flowers.
Bradford pear trees have been popular landscape trees, being planted extensively since the late 1980s and 1990s.
Originally, the varieties sold were grown from cuttings that were supposed to produce trees that were sterile.
They were genetically similar enough they couldn’t pollinate each other.
But those first trees were prone to splitting in high winds, so new varieties were developed to combat that problem.
The unintended consequence of fixing one problem was to create another.
The new varieties were able to pollinate the original trees that were still around.
“They started introducing new selections, and once those trees were planted, they were able to cross-pollinate the Bradfords that were already out there,” said Alana McKean, manager of Starhill Forest Arboretum outside Petersburg.
The fruits are small, nothing like pears found in the supermarket.
“Not only do the fruits drop right there under the trees, but the birds pick them up and carry them for miles.”
The result was Bradford pear trees showing up along roadsides, in woodlands and just about everywhere else.
Petersburg arborist and author Guy Sternberg, who owns Starhill Forest Arboretum with his wife, Edie, said invasive species often start out harmless.
“But invasive species tend to sleep, creep and then leap,” he said, referring to a confluence of events that allow a plant to break out and “leap” past the competition.
Many people likely mistake Bradford pears for flowering dogwoods in the spring.
In the fall, the deep burgundy leaves stay around long after other trees have gone bare.
“It was a plant that behaved for many years until these other varieties came along that started producing viable seed, and then it took off,” said Chris Evans, Illinois Department of Natural Resources invasive species program manager.