Bradford pear trees are all over Ohio, but they’ll be banned in 2023

The ban takes effect in 2023
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 8:00 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The white blossoms of the Bradford or Callery, pear tree are everywhere right now. The tree is popular for its beautiful blooms in spring and colors that last into autumn. But it’s about to be banned in The Buckeye State.

Even if you don’t know them by name, you’ve certainly seen them. They line neighborhoods and city streets just about everywhere.

The Bradford pear was first brought to the United States in the 1960s from Asia. Amy Stone is an Extension Educator with The Ohio State University based in Toledo. “The tree was originally brought to our country because it was resistant to something called fire blight. It’s a disease that can kill blossoms and shoots. Along the way, people decided they would be good landscaping trees. The original trees were sterile by themselves, but when new varieties were introduced, that is when the problems started to occur. The plants were crossed and the offspring had viable seeds that were eaten by the birds, processed, and then planted all over the region.”

They eventually became one of the most popular ornamental trees to plant. Decades later, they are causing serious problems. You’ve no doubt seen wild versions of the trees cropping up along highways and in wooded areas. “They are a generalist, so when they get into an area, they’ll knock out anything growing there before.”

The trees kill trees and plants that provide important food and habitat. “Those native plants that should be there are now gone. Those were food, and now we have a mono-culture for a short time, so there is nothing later in the season for the wildlife and pollinators.”

The Bradford pear joins dozens of others plants on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s list of invasive species that are, or will soon be, banned in Ohio. “This is nothing new. We’ve dealt with plants not from here that have become established and then become prolific and problematic.”

Existing trees do not have to be removed, but starting in 2023 it will be illegal to sell or plant the trees anywhere in the state. “If you have a Bradford pear nobody is going to require you to cut it down, but it’s an opportunity to do that and plant something else.”

Stone says there are plenty of other beautiful options that don’t threaten our native species. “If you like the white flower in spring, the serviceberry is a great native plant that could be a replacement. There are all sorts of plants to choose from depending on the space you have. As a homeowner, it is important to realize the impact your landscape can have beyond your landscape.”

Other states have already or will soon enact bans on the Bradford Pear Tree. Once again, you do not have to remove existing trees, and the Ohio ban takes effect in January.

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