Planting season is approaching and some environmentalists are telling Iowans to avoid planting pear trees. Varieties such as Cleveland Select and Bradford are popular because they produce white flowers. Cedar Rapids arborist Daniel Gibbons says the trees are harmless – until they cross-pollinate with other varieties.
"It’s a non-native tree that can grow about anywhere and it grows in such a thick mass that our native plant species cannot reproduce underneath it," Gibbons said. Pear trees come from China. The trees by themselves are sterile, but because there are different varieties, thorny hybrid pear trees can pop up.
"Because of the way it has been cultivated and planted, cross-pollination is much more rapid over here and so that is why there are many different hybridized seedlings that are sprouting up," Gibbons said. The thorny hybrids destroy native wildlife and Gibbons says they can crowd around utilities causing thousands of dollars in damage.
Gibbons says it’s not yet a big problem in Iowa, but some cities on the east coast have banned the tree and the problem is rapidly growing in border states such as Missouri.