By Durant Ashmore, in the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Callery pear is the new kudzu, and is proving to be much more pervasive, with a range that is overwhelming 25 of our 50 states.
There are two times a year when the public can really see the full extent of the Callery pear infestation of our fallow fields. And, make no mistake about this. Today’s fallow fields are tomorrow’s forests.
The times when this infestation is most obvious is in the spring when these pears can be seen blooming by the millions, and in the fall when Callery pears show their red color on waxy leaves that don’t decompose. The picture of this fallow field located between two subdivisions sadly mis-planted with Bradford pears illustrates this point.
The wild pears depicted here are the progeny of Bradford pears. They are Callery pears, a reversion to the ancient pear trees found wild in the mountains of China. In 1918, in an effort to crossbreed wild Callery pears with fruit producing Bartlett pears, seeds were gathered by scientists from the USDA. It was hoped that cross breeding would lessen the problem desirable fruiting pears were having with the dreaded disease of fire blight.
These crossbred trees were observed for thirty years at the USDA facilities in Glen Dale, Maryland. Unfortunately, the problem with fire blight persisted unabated, and the project was abandoned. However, the research scientists did note that some of these trees had characteristics they considered to be ornamental, and they selected some trees for further study.