breaking news

Local artists to open home and bath store in downtown Springfield

When good plants go bad

In the horticulture world, sometimes good plants go bad. No matter how great a plant may start out to be, there are circumstances that we just can’t predict that cause nature to get out of line.

Take the story of the callery pear (Pyrus calleryana). Most people know this tree by the name of ‘Bradford’ pear.

‘Bradford’ is actually a cultivar of the callery pear that was discovered to have the characteristics of a good street tree along with beautiful white flowers, wonderful maroon fall color and most importantly, no (or very few) fruits that would make a mess on the sidewalks.

This tree was widely planted as a street tree and in all new commercial and housing developments.

Unfortunately it was quickly discovered that this particular cultivar had very poor crotch angles (where the branches come out from the trunk).

This led to a lot of broken branches due to heavy wind and ice. In many cases, an entire side of the tree would split off.

Breeders went back to work and developed other cultivars that had better branching angles. The strongest angle for a branch is between 45 and 90 degrees.

New cultivars came to market with different fall colors and much better branching habits. They included ‘Washington’, ‘Aristocrat’, ‘Cleveland Select’ among others.

The ‘Bradford’ pear cultivar was a great cultivar because is really did lack fruit - in the beginning. It was considered genetically self-incompatible which meant that it couldn’t self-pollinate and produce fruit.

However, sometime around the mid-1990’s we started to see tiny hard brown fruits develop on the ‘Bradford’ pears. I had nurserymen such as Peter Scarff of Scarff’s Nursery in New Carlisle call and ask if I had recently noticed that the ‘Bradford’ pears were producing fruit. It was a very strange thing for us to see after so many years of no fruit.

A researcher at the University of Cincinnati, Teresa Culley among others discovered what was happening and why we were beginning to see fruits on these trees.

The other cultivars with the better branch structure were crossing with the ‘Bradford’ pears and fruits started to develop.

In the early 2000’s all of a sudden we started noticing that there were a lot (emphasis on LOT!) of pears starting to grow in areas where they weren’t growing before. We noticed them in fields, empty lots and especially along the highways.

I have a five-acre former farm field and in the back of the lot, where we don’t mow on a regular basis, we have noticed seedlings starting on their own.

These were not planted by humans but rather transported by birds.

The fate of these trees in native areas is still unfolding. Natural area and preserve managers are concerned that these particular trees are becoming an invasive threat.

With the decline of ash trees in natural areas, we wonder if these pears will begin filling in the gaps in the natural areas.

It’s an interesting story and one to prove the point that we never really know everything when it comes to nature! We have so much to continue to learn and study.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in

How Dayton changed the Bombecks — and how the Bombecks changed Dayton
How Dayton changed the Bombecks — and how the Bombecks changed Dayton

Growing up in Dayton left an indelible imprint on Bill and Erma Bombeck – and they, in turn, now leave an enduring legacy in their hometown. Bill Bombeck died Jan. 12 in Phoenix, Ariz., and he soon will be buried alongside his wife in Dayton’s historic Woodland Cemetery. But the couple will live on in the hearts of many friends in the Dayton...
The Kid Whisperer: What to do about the child who cries, cries, cries

Dear Kid Whisperer, I’m curious about crying tantrums. We have a strong-willed 6-year old girl who cries about everything lately. She cries over us not buying a toy or what she eats for breakfast. I offer her a hug, tell her I am sad that she is sad and tell her that it’s too loud and we can’t hear each other. I am gentle and loving...
Parenting with Dr. Ramey: What’s dangerous about the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule advising that you should behave towards others as you’d like to be treated seems reasonable — but in fact, represents a dangerous and wrong way of thinking about the world. Lee Ross and his social psychology colleagues have called this blunder in thinking “naive realism.” Avoiding this error will make you a better...
D.L. STEWART: Real men wear short coats because being cold is cool

A letter writer to the chief fashion critic at The New York Times asked a question in last Tuesday’s edition. “My son is in college in Maine,” AMY, PELHAM, N.Y., wrote, “and the temperature is frequently below zero. It seems like every woman is swathed in an ankle-length black puffer coat from November to March. So why do men...
Coupon deals of the week
Coupon deals of the week

Coupon availability and coupon values may vary within different regions or neighborhoods. Irish Spring Body Wash This week at Rite-Aid, Irish Spring body wash is on sale for $3.99. In most of your Rite-Aid ad inserts, you should find a coupon for this product that will drop the price down to $1.99. Also, use the $1 off one Irish Spring body wash manufacturer...
More Stories