Bradford pears are banned in Ohio. Learn why, what they look like, and what to plant instead.

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As of January 2023, it became illegal to plant, grow, and sell the Callery pear in the state of Ohio due to its invasive nature. 

This Callery pear plant, or the Bradford pear, is an ornamental species native to southeast Asia that was introduced to America in the 1900s. Because of fire blight, a disease affecting pear and apple trees, the Callery pear was introduced in breeding programs to resist the disease. It then quickly became a favorite in landscaping for their adaptability, flowering, fall color and rounded crown.

It doesn’t matter if you call it a Callery pear or a Bradford pear — in 2024, the trees are an eco disaster that disrupt nature and its wildlife. 

Why are Bradford pears bad for the environment? Why did Ohio ban them?

Ohio, like most of the Midwest, contains deciduous forests, characterized by trees that lose their leaves at the end of each growing season. And only certain plants and animals are made to thrive in deciduous forests. Bradford pears don’t belong and disrupt. 

The Callery pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) are growing and spreading at an alarming rate. The species has proven very successful at invading disturbed areas, open fields, unimproved pastures, rights of ways, and forest edges.

The species was once believed to be unable to reproduce by seed and bred to be sterile — but over time, the genetic diversity increased, leading to opportunities for outcrossing. When all trees within an individual cultivar are genetically the same, they can cross-pollinate, producing successful fruiting. 

The seeds of these plants are easily dispersed by birds when consumed. As these trees spread in empty spaces, it shades out species native to the land already, causing a rapid change in plant and wildlife communities. This tree is a significant threat to native land and wildlife.

What do Callery pear trees look like?

Callery pear trees are medium-sized trees that reach a height of up to 60 feet tall with bark that is a muted, grayish brown which splits into scales with age. Each tree is commonly in the shape of an egg. Their glossy green leaves are as long as three inches, and have round teeth. 

During the spring, small white flowers bloom, and though it may seem pretty, these blossoms have an abhorrent smell. By autumn, the leaves turn to fall colors and the flowers become tiny greenish-yellow apples, flecked with whitish spots, and can also appear brown. And no, don’t eat them. They’re not edible to humans.

What trees to plant instead of Bradford pears

Bradford pear trees are beautiful, but they are also smelly, invasive and threaten local species. That’s why Ohio banned them. Luckily, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a list of alternate trees that are safer to plant. They include:

Some potential alternative trees species to Callery pear that are native to the eastern United States are: