by Bill Graham, Missouri Department of Conservation
Trees with white blooms are too common this spring in many Kansas City area fence lines, parks, and meadows, because non-native Callery pear cultivars planted as ornamentals have hybridized and become very invasive. They invade where they’re not wanted and choke out valuable native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that nurture songbirds and butterflies.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) urges gardeners and landscapers to consider planting native trees with colorful spring blooms as ornamentals.
Missouri’s state tree, flowering dogwood, provides white blooms and is attractive in lawns, given shady locations. Serviceberry provides early white blooms but also red berries that are edible for people, although birds also love them. Other choices include red buckeye, yellowwood, redbud, blackhaw viburnum, hophornbeam and chokecherry, said Wendy Sangster, MDC community conservation planner.
A mix of tree species will provide a variety of blooms and benefits. Native trees host valuable insects that are important food sources for backyard birds. They boost colorful moths and butterflies.
Invasive Callery pear cultivars host few if any native insects. They do provide berries, which birds eat and then spread the seeds, furthering the invasion. But those berries have very poor nutritional value for birds.
Cultivated varieties of this plant available for sale include Aristocrat, Autumn Blaze, Bradford, Capital, Chanticleer (also known as Cleveland Select), New Bradford, and Redspire, among others. All are invasive and should not be planted.
“Callery pear cultivars are also poor choices in landscaping because they are weak trees and break easily in wind or ice storms,” Sangster said.
MDC offers information about home landscape trees that help people and wildlife at http://www.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/trees-work.
The Heartland Tree Alliance, an MDC partner in the Kansas City metro area, provides information about trees that do well in urban settings, https://www.bridgingthegap.org/heartland-tree-alliance. Another useful source for information about native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees is available at http://www.grownative.org.