(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

JOPLIN, Mo. — The spring season is underway and many Missouri plants and trees will be blooming with color. Unfortunately, one invasive tree species will also be prominent along roadways and other natural open areas: The Callery pear tree. If you happen to be shopping for new trees this spring, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) urges you to avoid this non-native tree species.

The Callery pear, also known as the Bradford pear, Cleveland Select, Autumn Blaze, or Aristocrat, is a highly invasive tree that multiples quickly and crowds out Missouri native plants.

“The Callery pear rose to fame as a popular ornamental landscape tree in the 1960s because it was inexpensive, it grew fast, and it provided white blooms in the spring. But that’s where the list of benefits ends. Different varieties of the tree were planted close to each other, they cross-pollinated, and spread everywhere,” said Forestry Field Programs Supervisor, Russell Hinnah with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Callery pears’ ability to cross-pollinate is why many roadsides, rights-of-way, parks, and other natural areas are filled with white blooms every spring. The downside to the tree’s pretty white color: They’re infamous for a stinky smell and also have poor branch structure. They don’t fare well in bad weather, often losing limbs or splitting apart.

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The Missouri Department of Conservation encourages homeowners and landscapers to grow native when picking a tree to plant this spring.

“The best decision is to plant a tree species native to Missouri, and there are several great trees to substitute. Serviceberry trees produce similar white blooms in the spring and they have small red fruits that attract wildlife,” said Hinnah.

Other alternatives include the American plum, hawthorn, eastern redbud, and Missouri’s state tree, the flowering dogwood. On one hand, hawthorns provide bountiful fruit and attractive fall color, while on the other, dogwoods thrive in shady areas, but they can be difficult to grow.

You can learn more about native trees and landscaping on your property, HERE.


Those in the Joplin area with Callery pear trees on their property have the opportunity to cut down their trees and receive a free, non-invasive tree in return, at a “buy-back” event scheduled for April 18th. This event is made possible through partnerships with the Missouri Invasive Plant Council, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, Forrest Keeling Nursery, and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

To qualify, participants must submit a photo of their cut-down Callery pear online. On April 18th, one free native tree will be provided to each registered participant at the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center.

You’ll find more information about Joplin’s Callery pear tree buy-back event, HERE.