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Do Not Plant: Bradford Pear

The asian import, Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana), commonly called Bradford Pear, is an ornamental tree that’s widely used in landscaping.  It has, like so many other nursery-grown plants, escaped from residential and commercial land and is designated as invasive in more than half of our states.  This tree greedily invades natural habitats and out-competes our valuable native species for resources.

Invasive Callery or Bradford Pear blooming in spring.

An ever-mulitiplying patch of invasive Callery or Bradford Pear blooming in spring.

‘Do not plant’ is the official advice regarding this invasive.  I’d like to add, ‘Do not propagate’ and ‘Do not sell.’  Please!  Unfortunately the Bradford Pear is legal to sell here in Virginia and I suspect this is the case in most of the states it’s sunk its insidious roots into.

People think this white-flowering tree is pretty but if ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ I see this as one unsightly tree. Here are some handsome Mid-Atlantic native alternatives to the Callery Pear for your consideration (sources noted below):

ALTERNATIVE NATIVE TREES

Common/Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
Light Reqirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Canadian Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Allegheny Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

American Hornbeam/Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Cockspur Hawthorne (Crataegus crus-galli)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Green Hawthorne (Crataegus viridis)
Light Requirement: Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Sweet Crabapple (Malus coronaria)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica)
Note: this tree can grow to 100’
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
Note: Not recommended for urban areas
Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

American Plum/Wild Plum (Prunus americana)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist>
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia)
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Southern Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Black Haw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist, Wet
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The best plan is to use local ecotypes (plants native to your area) that grow in the same conditions as your garden’s.  Soil pH, light and moisture should be taken into consideration before planting to insure long term success.

Sources:

City of Columbia, Missouri

Invasive.org

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

US Fish & Wildlife Service
Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping, Chesapeake Bay Watershed

USDA Forest Service

Doing What We Can May Be A Good Idea

tall-tree-w-ivy

Certain death. English ivy girdles this 50+ year old tree.

by Miles Benson.

Lovely and seductive, this leafy, easy-to-grow and innocent-looking charmer has been around a long time.  It is an inexpensive decorative plant found inside homes almost everywhere.  Outside, it crawls the walls of elegant buildings on the campuses of renowned universities, engulfing them in deceptive green majesty (think ivy league).  It now runs loose in the wild across the nation.

It is, in fact, an invasive species, a noxious weed imported from Europe that has escaped control of not only of the federal government but the 50 state governments.  And “escaped” is precisely the term commonly used in scientific papers to describe the ivy’s spread across America.  Both federal authorities in the U.S. agriculture department, and officials in state agriculture departments acknowledge – usually off the record – that this is an escalating problem that they are just unable to deal with effectively.

Never mind the damage the ivy does to stucco and exterior painted surfaces of homes.  Never mind that it crowds out wildflowers, ferns and tree seedlings.  Never mind that it provides protective refuge for Norway rats in large numbers.  It’s a tree-killer.  The evidence is easily apparent even to inexpert eyes.  Around the nation’s capital, in pricey neighborhoods like Georgetown and public spaces like Rock Creek Park, and in the suburbs along the Potomac, the ubiquitous creepers surround and climb and cripple and strangle even the largest pillars of our shrinking canopy.  The evergreen ivy causes tree bark and rot problems and blow-overs in windstorms because of the “sail effect” of the vines’ mass.  Oh, and the mature vines produce berries believed poisonous to some birds species.

This is an issue that has remained mostly beneath our radar.  Although some conservation-minded people who care deeply about natural habitat describe English Ivy as “evil menace” I doubt the plant is motivated by malice.  It’s just behaving as a natural life form that happens to be in the wrong place, carried there by human error and commerce.

Some, but few, feeble attempts have been made to address the error.  The states of Washington and Oregon actually have taken administrative steps to ban the propagation and sale of various strains of English ivy by nurseries and garden supply businesses.  But neither state has launched a full bore eradication effort, or require homeowners or anyone else to eliminate existing beds and vines.  Mississippi has classified the plant as a noxious weed without banning sales.

To be sure, I am just tossing one more issue atop a mountain of urgent problems such as jobs, poverty, disease, health care reform, pollution, income inequality, political dysfunction, nuclear proliferation, jihads, terrorism, population growth, and global warming with its apocalyptic cohorts climate change, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and accelerating species extinctions, to name a few.  But this one item, this Hedera Helix, is something you can individually take action against, real hands-on action, the satisfying kind of action of actually and legally uprooting and destroying an interloper that lives within your reach and grasp.  How often to you get the chance to do that?