MANHATTAN, Kan. – For a brief period, the Callery pear tree puts on a show of deception in urban and rural landscapes. Typically in early April, the tree flaunts a bastion of white flowers that can be quite stunning.
But make no mistake: The Callery pear is not a favored friend in the tree world.
Native to China, the Callery pear is considered an invasive tree. It includes 26 cultivars that present significant ecological concerns in Kansas and Missouri, among them:
- It displaces native trees and plants in the wild, which lowers ecological biodiversity. The tree does not host native pollinators.
- It leafs out before woodland wildflowers emerge from dormancy, robbing them of critical sunlight and preventing their growth. This also can harm certain pollinators that use these plants as their larval host.
- Its’ egg-shaped structure – at heights of 30-40 feet – and brittleness of the wood make it prone to falling limbs that can damage people and property.
The solution, said officials of several state agencies, is to cut the Callery pear down.
In late April and May, the Kansas Forest Service and several partners are sponsoring a Callery pear “buy-back” event at two locations in the Kansas City area, and one in Topeka. Officials said they will provide a more suitable replacement tree for each Callery pear tree that comes down.
“This is an expansion of an event that began with the Missouri Invasive Plants Council several years ago,” said Matt Norville, the community forestry coordinator with the Kansas Forest Service. “In Missouri, they identified Callery pear as causing severe environmental degradation in most of the state, and we are seeing the same impacts in Kansas.
“Although Callery pear has spread to rural areas, we recognize that urban plantings are responsible for the original source of seed. In Kansas, while we have several woody species we are concerned with, we are happy to expand this buy-back program into our state as part of our efforts to combat woody encroachment of Callery pear.”
The three upcoming events include:
- Lee’s Summit – April 22, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Topeka – April 22, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Lenexa – May 20, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
To be eligible for a free replacement tree, participants must register online through Eventbrite, then send in a picture of them standing next to a fallen Callery pear tree by email, email@example.com.
Registrants will receive information on how to receive their replacement tree.
“There are many wonderful options for replacement trees after removing a Callery pear,” Norville said. “The most important thing to remember is ‘right tree, right place’ when planting. Make sure the tree you select is a height that will not encounter power lines, (or) a width that won’t hit your house or hang over your driveway.”
He adds: “The tree should be suitable for the part of the state you are in and the specific location on your property. We have recommended tree lists on our website for each area of the state that can also serve as a resource for anyone looking to add trees to their property.”
Norville said he realizes not everyone can travel to the locations where replacement trees are offered, and the number of replacement trees is limited.
But, he said, “if you have a Callery pear tree on your urban property, we recommend you contact a certified arborist to discuss removal. In rural areas, removal can be more of a challenge. On the Kansas Forest Service website, we have a page that details removal and I would encourage everyone who has Callery pears on their property to look at that information.”
In addition to the Kansas Forest Service, the Callery pear buy-back program is co-sponsored by Deep Roots KC, Evergy, Johnson County Parks and Recreation District, Shawnee County Parks and Recreation, and the Missouri Invasive Plant Council.
— Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service