An oft-planted ornamental tree –
Bradford pear – has become an invasive species that harms native plants or trees that support wildlife. Property owners and managers are urged to consider native alternatives, such as the downy serviceberry tree, as they plant new trees this spring.
However, various cultivars were used and some managed to cross pollinate and produce viable seed. Birds eat the fruit and distribute the seeds across the landscape.
Bradford pears, sometimes called callery pears, also leaf out early and that helps them out compete native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and young trees, said Wendy Sangster, an urban forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
“It’s also not a good tree because they’re not strong,” Sangster said. “They don’t stand up well in storms and the limbs break easily.”
Serviceberry trees, a
native, offer an excellent alternative. In late March or April, serviceberry produces heavy white blooms that signal spring. Their small red fruit is also edible for people and wildlife. Those who harvest serviceberries use them as food in ways comparable to blueberries. But they must be picked quickly when ripe because birds love them, too.
Wild plum is another good alternative tree, Sangster said. For spring blooms, the redbud tree is a showy and reliable native. Dogwood trees will also produce early spring blooms in the
region, although they require shade.
For more information about urban trees, go to on.mo.gov/h9E8Jl. Heartland Tree Alliance offers information atbridgingthegap.org/heartland-tree-alliance.
Using native plants and trees in landscape settings helps wildlife from butterflies to birds and avoids invasive species. For more information, go online to www.grownative.org/