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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Ornamental Pear Trees

Posted by John Fulton -

When you bought your ornamental pear tree, you probably thought it was a sterile tree (having no fruit). You were right at the time, but some things have changed. The original Bradford pear tree was sterile. It is actually a member of the Callery pear group. Due to many of the trees breaking at the graft, new varieties of the sterile, ornamental pear were introduced from the Callery group. The problem was, these different varieties cross pollinate. This means fruit forms on the formerly sterile pear tree. This feature has lead to the pear trees as being classified as invasive by many municipalities. Don't fret though – Kentucky bluegrass and some others are also on those lists!

These pear trees have many beneficial aspects such as spring blooming, shape, relatively free of pest damage, and fall foliage color turning to red. Also the shape is great, but that shape also leads to weak branch angles causing breakage in storms. Another down-side to the Callery pear is their relatively short life, with decline often setting in between 20 and 30 years of age. There is also the fire blight issue we've had the past several years. I'm just pointing out the pluses and minuses of the tree, rather than passing any judgment. If you are in the process of selecting or replacing a tree, you might check out the Extension website at for information on trees.

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