The Penultimate Countdown for Bradford Pear

I’ve had a countdown on my phone for a while now counting down to January 7, 2023. It’s not some belated New Year’s Eve party, not my birthday or an anniversary, but to something I’ve been calling “the end of Bradford Pears."

In September of 2014, the Ohio General Assembly granted the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) the exclusive authority to regulate invasive plants species. Rules to prohibit the sale and distribution of invasive plants in the state of Ohio became effective on January 7, 2018, but some of the species on the new list of 38 species had a “grace period” to allow businesses to move some of their stock.

But what does invasive plant species mean? Their formal definition is “plant species that are not native to Ohio whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health as determined by scientific studies.” The Ohio Invasive Plants Council has more information too.

Callery pear (and all its varieties like Bradford) is included on this list and the grace period ends January 2023. You might have one of these trees on your property or in your tree lawn, and you’ve certainly seen their bright white blooms lining the highways during the spring. It was a very popular street tree and the sterile hybrids weren’t supposed to be able to reproduce. But life finds a way, and they’ve escaped by the thousands to edges of highways, woods, and local parks.

These trees fit the definition of an invasive species in a lot of ways, both economic and environmental. Their narrow branch angles mean they're likely to crack and break in icy winters, damaging any structure nearby and creating clean up cost. Since they escape so readily, our local parks and greenspaces have costs associated with fighting the invasion. They create thickets on the woodland edge, crowding out what would otherwise be a biodiverse ecosystem supporting more wildlife.

It’s a huge win that this invasive species will be banned from sale and distribution, but there’s a reason I’ve titled this blog a penultimate countdown. The foot might be off the gas, but we still need to pump the brakes. An incredible number of these trees are already established in our watershed, escaped from our yards and our neighborhoods.

Banning the sale is the first step, but how are we going to deal with the trees we already have? I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t have all the solutions, but I do know where I’d like to start.

I partnered with Friends of Euclid Creek to create an invasive trade-up program for the Euclid Creek Watershed that will hopefully convince you to make the leap and cut down that Bradford Pear (or any other woody invasive species!) and then come get a free native tree or shrub from us to replace it.

That’s right, the environmentalist in the room is asking you to cut down a tree. But she’s also trying to give you some free ones in return.

Registration for the program will open in March 2023, but please get in touch if you’d be interested in participating! You can call or email me to learn more about invasives, figure out if you have any, determine if your property is in the watershed, and brainstorm what you’d like to plant instead.

Blog author: Kate Chapel, Euclid Creek Watershed Coordinator

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