On a recent field trip, Culley picked her way through the woods at the Harris Benedict Nature Preserve to show how resilient pear trees have become. UC owns the forested preserve about 15 miles north of the Uptown campus and uses it for some of its biological sciences programs and research. It’s adjacent to the Johnson Preserve in Montgomery, Ohio.
The trail is lined with several memorials to victims of a 1999 F4 tornado that killed four people and destroyed nearly 130 nearby homes and businesses. The storm cut a 10-mile long swath of destruction that toppled hundreds of trees across two counties.
Where many of the stately older trees fell during the storm, Callery pears now thrive. Culley stopped under the canopy of their leafy, green foliage. The understory was covered in amur honeysuckle, another invasive plant from Asia that has exploded in Eastern forests.
UC conducts plant surveys in the preserve every three years. The ongoing study suggests the pear trees may be replacing many of the ash trees that were killed by emerald ash borers, another invasive species.
“In the past, pears would be found along forest edges like along highways. We’re now seeing pears invading the center of forests,” said Culley, head of UC's Department of Biological Sciences. “Once they’re established, it’s really difficult to remove them. Their roots are deep so you have to cut them and spray them with glyphosate. A lot of land managers simply can’t afford to get rid of them.”