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Pear tree buyback planned again

February 11, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Once again a group advocating for making early detection and control of invasive plants a statewide priority is planning to do a Callery pear tree buyback program.

The Missouri Invasive Plant Council, which is a multi-agency, multi-industry networking and advocacy group, has not set a date yet for when the buyback will occur. But is planning to offer the program again.

Forestry Manager Mark Halpin, of Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, one of the agencies involved with the council, said this species has been targeted because it has become a serious invasive pest in the state. Callery pear varieties (such as 'Bradford' and 'Cleveland' pears) are self-sterile.

"That means they can't fertilize their own flowers and thus can't produce seed, but different varieties can fertilize each other and set seed," Halpin said. "Their offspring reverts back to the wild, uncultivated pear form, which produces an abundance of viable seed and huge, sturdy thorns."

These trees are easily identifiable in the spring because of the white petals of their blossoms.

Halpin said Callery pears can be seen lining the highways close to the urban centers of Missouri and, "they are quickly radiating out into the countryside and damaging our natural areas."

The trees originally come from China but have spread rapidly in Missouri forests and grasslands after being used as decorative trees. They smother existing plant life in those areas.

The trees flower in spring, which attracts many pollinators. Birds spread the seed later in the season by eating the pear fruit. The spread is also accelerated by the large number of Callery pear varieties that can cross breed.

Last year, the council teamed with ReLeaf, the Missouri Department of Conservation and Missouri Community Forestry Council for a buyback program and quickly sold out of replacement trees.

Just like last year, the program will work this way: Property owners can send in photos of cut-down Callery pears. In turn, the tree-cutter will receive a native replacement tree, like a redbud or dogwood.

"Our 'hit list' is gaining a ton of public traction awareness of the Callery pear problem seems to increase exponentially each year," Halpin said. "We don't have an updated list, but, luckily, no new invasives have been discovered."

Halpin said those who would like to be a part of the buyback this year should monitor for updates.

Print Headline: Pear tree buyback planned again


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