Facts About the Callery Pear Tree
The Callery Pear is a deciduous tree that is native to China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. It first came to the United States in 1918 and originally was going to be used as rootstock for fruit trees. The first seed was planted in Maryland, and from that developed the Callery Pear cultivar known as the Bradford Pear Tree.
While most Callery Pear varieties had thorns, the Bradford did not, nor did it repopulate as it was a sterile hybrid. The tree was one of the first to flower in the spring and was covered with tiny, white flowers. It became a nice green, summer shade tree with three-inch leaves, and late in the fall, the foliage turned beautiful purples and reds. The fruits were only around a quarter to half-inch in diameter and were not edible. But birds did eat the fruit and spread the seeds. As soon as other Callery Pear cultivars were bred, the Bradford cross-pollinated and was no longer sterile. The result was large populations of trees and thorny thickets that were invasive to native species.
The Bradford Callery Pear, however, quickly became one of the most popular American landscape trees. It started popping up everywhere--in urban areas, parking lots, city streets, suburban malls, factory lots, backyards and front yards across most of the Central and Eastern United States. The tree was resistant to pollution, salt, disease and pests. Just as the trees started getting to be fifteen to twenty years old, a new problem developed. These now large, 40-foot trees started breaking apart seemingly at will and landing on streets and power lines. Wherever the Bradford Pear was planted, all it took was a little ice and wind and the trees all broke apart and fell to the ground.
The Bradford Callery Pear tree, that was once called the most popular tree in urban America, was suddenly being described as a “weed” by the U.S. Forest Service. All across America, Bradford Pears are now being replaced by other trees. There are also several new Callery Pear cultivars that have been bred to not split apart and to not grow fruit. Among these are the Chanticleer Pear Tree and the Aristocrat Pear Trees. Other cultivars include Autumn Blaze, Redspire, Capital, New Bradford, and Cleveland Select.
Some people claim that even these new cultivars are not free of the Bradford Pear problems, and suggest planting such other flowering substitutes as Juneberry or Alternate-leaved Dogwood. Other people are having good luck with the new varieties, with no splitting of limbs, even in icy weather.
There are some cities and towns where it is illegal to plant any type of Callery Pear tree. You should check with your city or town administration before planting in your location.