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Invasive Bradford pear trees cause problems for Ozarks native plants, animals

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A broken limb on a Bradford Pear during even a moderate Ozarks thunderstorm can ruin the tree’s appeal overnight, and become a mess to clean up. The invasive ornamental tree is short-lived and invasive.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is discouraging homeowners and landscapers from planting Callery pear trees this spring, more often. The trees are better known as Bradford pears, known to multiply quickly and crowd out Missouri native plants. While it’s been a popular landscaping tree for decades, cultivated forms have spread aggressively throughout the state.

“Different varieties of Bradford pear trees were planted close to each other, which allowed them to cross pollinate and take over natural areas,” says Russell Hinnah, Forestry Field Program Supervisor with MDC. “But they’re also a poor landscaping choice because they don’t do well in storms, often losing limbs or splitting apart.”

Stopping the spread means selecting alternate trees for yards and forested property.

“The best plan is to select a native species to Missouri, and there are several great options,” said Hinnah. “Serviceberry trees produce similar showy white blooms in the spring and have small red fruits that attract wildlife.”

Eastern redbuds and Missouri’s state tree, the flowering dogwood, are also good alternatives. The redbud tree grows quickly with eye-catching lavender flowers in the spring. Dogwoods do best in shady areas but can be somewhat difficult to grow.

To learn more about native trees that are great for landscaping, visit MDC’s website at MDC.mo.gov/Trees-plants/tree-care. “Missouri’s Urban Trees” booklet (Short.MDC.Mo.gov/ZwB) is a great guide for finding the right tree for the right place.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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