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Callery Pear Pyrus calleryana

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
PI-russ kal-er-ee-A-na
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

This plant is problematic, and alternatives should be considered.  Please see the suggestions in the left-hand column or see this video created by Charlotte Glen as part of the Plants, Pests, and Pathogens series.

Callery pear is a dense, pyramidal, ornamental, broadleaf deciduous tree that grows up to 50 feet tall and 20 to 35 feet wide. It is a very common landscape plant, most notably in the spring when the tree is full of white blossoms. It is used frequently for its rapid growth rate and tolerance to a variety of urban conditions, including drought, air pollution, and heat. The most notable cultivar is the 'Bradford Pear.'  Unfortunately, the Callery pear tree has seeded out into natural areas and has become invasive in many states. 

The Callery pear is a member of the Rosaceae or rose family and is native to portions of China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In the 1950s, this promising tree was introduced into the landscape in the United States. Concerns for overplanting and structural weakness of the branches began to emerge in the 1980s. Now the concerns are regarding invasiveness, escaping cultivation, and naturalization. 

The genus name, Pyrus, is Latin for pear. The epithet, calleryanna, is in honor of an Italian, Joseph M. M. Callery, who was a missionary to China and botanical collector. He brought 2,000 plants to the Paris Museum of History including this species

The Callery pear prefers full sun, moist, well-drained, loamy soils. It is soil adaptable, urban tolerant, drought tolerant, transplants easily, and can grow in partial shade. Pruning is required to improve strength and structure of the tree. 

The Callery pear is one of the first trees to bloom in the spring and is covered profusely with white flowers. The blooms at peak, unfortunately smell like a decaying animal. Many people encountering this odor will wrinkle their nose and begin to look around on the ground. The branches grow at upright angles with weak crotches that break with age, wind, and ice. Each tree lasts only 10 to 20 years.  It is also considered an invasive species in the southeastern United States. Fruit is non-ornamental and hidden by the foliage. In the fall, this tree gives off colorful variable foliage.

The cultivar 'Bradford' has strongly ascending branches and is narrower than typical selections of Callery pear. It also develops tight crotches that are likely to be split in half by heavy wind and rainstorms. Leaves are suborbicular as L/W ratio is nearly 1. Typical members of Callery pears have more spreading branches and some leaves with L/W ratios near 2. 'Bradford' is regarded as relatively pest and disease free, whereas the species is very susceptible to fire blight. A study was reported of an experiment on the North Carolina State University campus, where 6 'Bradford' trees were inoculated with the organism that causes fire blight. Each tree developed fire blight; thus, the conclusion was that 'Bradford' was not resistant. However, all 6 trees existing on the campus at that time were misidentified Callery pears, not a 'Bradford' cultivar. 

This plant is used as a temporary specimen tree for 10 to 20 years in residential sites, commercial sites, school grounds, and malls. During peak bloom, some customers have been observed at mall parking lots, getting out of their cars, reacting to the odor, getting back in their cars, and driving off.

Considering the invasiveness of this species, it would be preferable to select and alternative native flowering shade tree such as the Eastern Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, Common Serviceberry, or American Plum for the home landscape.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Spring                      Foliage:  Summer and Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • bark is light brown to reddish-brown to light gray, smooth, ridged and furrowed with age with tight crotches, young bark may have horizontal elongated lenticels.
  • twigs are stout, initially white pubescent, and mature to a smooth, shiny brown, branches maybe tipped with a thorn.
  • buds are elongate, wooly, and gray-pubescent
  • leaves are dark green on the upper surface and pale beneath, glabrous, alternate, simple, ovate, glossy with crenate and wavy margins
  • bloom is creamy white, 0.75 to 1-inch wide, 5-petaled, showy, and malodorous, arranged in a dense corymb or cyme. 
  • fruits are yellowish green to brown, round, 0.5 to 1-inch in diameter

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  The Callery pear is mostly insect or pest free, but potential insects may include aphids, scales, or borers. It can be affected by fire blight. The Callery pear has too many upright branches that grow too close together on the trunk. Limb breakage is common due to poor crotch angles, and it is often a very short-lived tree. This tree sustains structural damage frequently from wind or ice and snowstorms. This is a weedy to invasive species, that can spread fire blight to other Rosaceous crops, so consider planting a different tree.

VIDEO Created by Homegrown featuring Jeana Myers, Horticulture Extension Agent for NC State Extension

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aristocrat'
    stronger crotches, susceptible to fire blight, purple red to orange fall foliage susceptible
  • 'Autumn Blaze'
    more narrow form, cold hardy zone 4
  • 'Bradford'
    most fire blight resistant, showy flowers, tends to split with age
  • 'Capital'
    columnar, purple red to bronze fall foliage, fire blight resistant
  • 'Chanticleer'
    narrow columnar, reddish fall foliage, hardy zone 4
  • 'Cleveland Select'
    fragrant, less breakage, red, orange, purple fall color, no fruits
  • 'Invasive'
  • 'Redspire'
    pyramidal, yellow to red fall foliage
  • 'Whitehouse'
    more narrow form
'Aristocrat', 'Autumn Blaze', 'Bradford', 'Capital', 'Chanticleer', 'Cleveland Select', 'Invasive', 'Redspire', 'Whitehouse'
Tags:
#cultivars#showy flowers#deciduous#shade tree#invasive#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#pyramidal#weedy#fall interest#high maintenance#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#food source wildlife#fast growing#aggressive#deer resistant#weak wood#fantz#short lifespan#poor soils tolerant#bird friendly#malodorous#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aristocrat'
    stronger crotches, susceptible to fire blight, purple red to orange fall foliage susceptible
  • 'Autumn Blaze'
    more narrow form, cold hardy zone 4
  • 'Bradford'
    most fire blight resistant, showy flowers, tends to split with age
  • 'Capital'
    columnar, purple red to bronze fall foliage, fire blight resistant
  • 'Chanticleer'
    narrow columnar, reddish fall foliage, hardy zone 4
  • 'Cleveland Select'
    fragrant, less breakage, red, orange, purple fall color, no fruits
  • 'Invasive'
  • 'Redspire'
    pyramidal, yellow to red fall foliage
  • 'Whitehouse'
    more narrow form
'Aristocrat', 'Autumn Blaze', 'Bradford', 'Capital', 'Chanticleer', 'Cleveland Select', 'Invasive', 'Redspire', 'Whitehouse'
Tags:
#cultivars#showy flowers#deciduous#shade tree#invasive#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#pyramidal#weedy#fall interest#high maintenance#flowering tree#air pollution tolerant#food source wildlife#fast growing#aggressive#deer resistant#weak wood#fantz#short lifespan#poor soils tolerant#bird friendly#malodorous#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Pyrus
    Species:
    calleryana
    Family:
    Rosaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Grafting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central to Southern China to Vietnam, Central Japan, and Taiwan
    Distribution:
    Native: China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam Introduced: United States--AL, AR, CA, DC, DE, FL, GA, KS, KY, IL, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, and WV; Iraq, and West Himalaya
    Wildlife Value:
    The fruits attract many birds.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This tree is mildly resistant to damage by deer.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Erect
    Multi-trunked
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Thorns
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Pome
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are yellowish green to brown, round, 0.5 to 1-inch in diameter, and inedible with a brown pit. They have no practical value nor ornamental use except it attracts birds..
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Corymb
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowering occurs in early spring from April to May. The bloom is creamy white, 0.75 to 1-inch wide, 5-petaled, showy, and malodorous. Inflorescence is a dense, 3-inch-long corymb or cyme. The flowers are pollinated by insects.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Serrate
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are glabrous, alternate, simple, ovate, acuminate, glossy, rotund to broad cuneate or subcordate or truncate, coriaceous, and have crenate and wavy margins. The upper surface is dark green, and the undersides are paler. The crenate margins are rounded to an acute base. The leaves have a reddish-purple to bronze-red fall coloration.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Lenticels
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The bark is light brown to reddish-brown or light gray and smooth. Ridged and furrowed becoming blocky with age often has tight crotches that cause problems. Young bark may have horizontal elongated lenticels.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Flowers buds are large, ovoid, elongate, bluntly acute, have wooly grayish-brown scales, are terminal, and hairy. Twigs are stout, initially white pubescent and mature to a smooth, shiny brown. The branches maybe tipped with a thorn. The limbs are susceptible to breakage.
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Compaction
    Deer
    Drought
    Heat
    Pollution
    Poor Soil
    Urban Conditions
    Problems:
    Invasive Species
    Malodorous
    Short-lived
    Weedy