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CityLab: Pretty but reviled, Bradford pear trees are invading U.S. forests

UC biology professor Theresa Culley talks about invasive species

The Atlantic's CityLab talked to University of Cincinnati biology professor Theresa Culley about the invasion of imported pear trees in Eastern forests.

Culley has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Agriculture to stem the invasion. Callery pears, sometimes called Bradford pears, are showing up in the middle of forests such as UC's Harris M. Benedict Nature Preserve.

"Previously, we always noticed the pears along the roadsides, and at the outer parts of forest, near the edges," Culley told CityLab.

"A few years ago I was giving a talk and someone came up to me and said, 'I've been seeing them in a forest,'" she said. "I thought, 'That doesn't make sense at all.'"

Indeed, UC's forest surveys have found Callery pears taking root, particularly in disturbed forest such as the nature preserve, which was decimated by tornadoes in 1995 and again by another invasive species, emerald ash borers, which killed off ash trees.

Culley, a member of Ohio's Invasive Plants Council, is warning other states to be on the lookout for wild pear saplings before they take root. Once established, the pear trees are very hard to eradicate and can outcompete many native trees, Culley said.

Featured image at top: UC professor Theresa Culley conducts regular botany surveys at the Harris M. Benedict Nature Preserve. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Theresa Culley stands in a forest in front of a green sapling.

UC professor Theresa Culley stands in front of a Callery pear sapling growing wild at the Harris M. Benedict Nature Preserve. Invasive pear trees are showing up in more Eastern forests. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services