SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — With South Carolina’s upcoming ban on the sale of Callery Pear trees quickly approaching, you might be wondering: what’s so bad about a tree?
Zoe Rinker, the Executive Director for the Savannah Tree Foundation, said that it all started with the belief that the Bradford Pear would be sterile and thus unable to repopulate.
“It was developed in the late 1960s to early 1970s as a street tree,” Rinker said. “They thought they could have the blooms of a pear tree but without it creating fruit.”
Then this tree that was supposed to be sterile started crossbreeding with other trees. Then the products of those crosses started bearing fruit. Suddenly, there was an invasive plant running rampant as it thrived in the southern climate.
“Because it’s so successful at out-competing native trees, it has gone into the agricultural world,” Rinker explained.
Not only does it outcompete native plants, but it outcompetes crops for resources. Additionally, the tree itself has needles on it that can be harmful to livestock and possibly puncture tires.
“It’s an incredibly successful tree from a biological standpoint,” Rinker said. “But that is at the expense of a lot of native or income-producing plants and trees.”
Even worse, according to Rinker, these plants are not structurally sound.
Savannah’s live oaks, for example, grow large and wide and have a lot of “U shapes” in them instead of “V shapes.” When you have smaller, thinner and “V-shaped” trees like the Bradford Pear tree, the tree itself can grow together to create a sort of seam. That seam then can become a wound.
“That is an entry point for fungus and decay which makes the tree branch itself very unstable,” Rinker said.
This can cause the tree limbs to eventually fall, potentially injuring people and vehicles as well as anything else that is around. This is especially concerning because the trees that were planted in the 70s are reaching 50 years old, which is nearing the end of the life cycle for the tree.
So what do you do if you want a pretty tree in your yard but don’t want to deal with a Bradford Pear? Rinker said to investigate planting some native trees instead.
“There’s a lot of native trees that flower here and can serve a similar purpose,” Rinker suggested.
You can find a list of native trees to choose from on the Savannah Tree Foundation website through the link here. While not all of these are available through local nurseries at this time, the Savannah Tree Foundation does offer a native plant sale each fall which you can find updates about through the previous link.