Callery pears are well-known for their beautiful white spring blooms. (Submitted photo)
Callery pears are well-known for their beautiful white spring blooms. (Submitted photo)

One of the most noticeable landscape plants in flower this past week is the ornamental pear, also known as the callery pear (Pyrus calleryana). Ornamental pears are commonly found as landscape trees in home plantings and in public settings like parking lots, shopping centers, schools, and parks around Putnam County. In fact, they have been widely planted throughout the Midwest and the eastern United States since 1908 when they were first established in Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum.

The callery pear is native to Asia, specifically to Korea, China, and Taiwan. It is a quick growing tree but has weak wood and a narrow branch structure which makes it prone to damage from from ice and wind after 10 or more years in the landscape. High winds last Friday split a 20 ft. tall pear in two in my own backyard.

Despite having structural issues, callery pears are well-known for their beautiful white spring blooms. The flowers have an unusual smell and attract numerous pollinators including bees, wasps and flies.

Perhaps the most widely planted cultivar named ‘Bradford’ was introduced in 1961 and produces small, sterile fruits. Callery pears are not able to produce seed with their own pollen, but they can cross with other varieties and with other pear species like European and Asian pears that may be in close proximity. This results in the development of fruit that produces seed.

The fruit is often eaten by birds like the non-native European starling which carries and deposits the seed in new locations. The seed often develop into less appealing plants with characteristics unlike their parents, including multiple branches and thorns.

Pears are now seeding out into natural, open areas and becoming invasive. This is quite evident across Ohio and even within Putnam County. In driving from Hamilton County in the south to Ashland County in north central Ohio in the past two weeks, countless pear trees could be see blooming in disturbed, open areas along roadsides, in abandoned lots, and just about everywhere in between.

The callery pear has been identified as an invasive plant of concern by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry and placed on the invasive species list by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Because some businesses like nurseries and garden centers have invested considerable time and resources into commercially growing these plants, they need time to transition and find suitable replacements. Beginning January 7, 2023, the sale and distribution of callery pears will be prohibited in Ohio.

For additional information, please call our office at 419-523-6294, by email at Scheckelhoff.11@osu.edu or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. You can also find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.