Area Forestry and Wildlife Agent
Area Agents Rob Last and Janet Steele for Savannah Valley District. We were part of a team of natural resource professionals that braved a chilly Saturday morning in December to distribute free native trees to Lexington area homeowners who had removed Bradford pears from their landscape. Begun by Clemson Extension’s Forest Health Specialist David Coyle, Ph.D. in 2020, Clemson Extension’s Bradford Pear Bounty Program (https://www.clemson.edu/extension/bradford-pear/) has been hosted by municipalities across the state and has given out over 1,500 native trees. To participate in the program, homeowners received up to 5 free native trees after showing proof of cutting down an equivalent number of Bradford pears. They could select from over 15 different species of trees to take home. Representatives from Clemson Extension and the SC Forestry Commission helped participants select the best tree species for their landscape, considering soil type, light requirements, and growing space.
Eight more Bradford Pear Bounty programs are planned around the state in 2023 and 2024. In addition to receiving free trees, these events allow the general public to learn about invasive plants and native alternatives from forest health and urban forestry specialists from Clemson University and the SC Forestry Commission, and local municipalities. Educational materials for invasive species control, proper tree planting, and urban tree care are also available.
Well known for its beautiful spring flowers but also its stinky smell, Bradford pear has been extensively planted for decades. Initially believed to be sterile, this selection can hybridize with other pear species and cultivars and produce Callery pear, one of the most detrimental invasive species in the region. Birds disperse Callery pear seeds to open areas such as old agricultural fields, pastures, and even open woodlands. It is also a prolific root sprouted when cut and not treated with an herbicide. It quickly forms dense thickets that shade out any other vegetation and can produce sharp thorns up to 3” long.
The sale of any Pyrus Calleryana tree or rootstock will be banned in SC beginning October 1, 2024. While this will prevent other Bradford pears from being added to the landscape, until then, homeowners are being encouraged to remove these trees and replace them with native trees. Removing Bradford pears clearly reduces the viable seed that could end up as Callery pears growing in SC’s natural areas. To determine if you have this invasive species on your property and to learn more about eliminating Callery pear, visit https://www.clemson.edu/extension/bradford-pear/flowering-pear-trees.html.
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status, and is an equal opportunity employer.