Do ornamental pears selfseed?

mulberryknobApril 3, 2013

I have been seeing a lot of small young trees blooming white that look a lot like ornamental pears, but they are scattered in fencerows and other wild places, not planted in a lawn. I know they aren't wild plums as they are too columnar and the blooms very o-pear-like. And almost always when I see one or two or more in an area, I will see an ornamental pear within a quarter mile or so. There is a nursery on 412 east of Tulsa with dozens of large ornamental pears blooming and scattered along the freeway for a quarter mile in either direction are these young trees. Anybody know for sure if they are seedling pears? Makes me wonder if we have another privet situation developing.

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I have two in front of the house and have never seen any seedlings.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 1:00AM
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Larry, what I am wondering is if birds eat the fruit and then drop the seeds along fencerows. Have you seen birds eating the fruit? I know some seeds need to pass through the digestive tract of a bird to germinate. (I tried for years to get the red berries of the native deciduous hollies to grow and they never do if planted directly. Then someone told me they have to pass through a bird.)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 10:06AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You are absolutely correct in believing you are seeing volunteer ornamental pear seedlings. It is a huge issue in some areas and some municipalities now discourage their citizens from planting any variety of ornamental pear trees, offering them lists of alternate spring bloomers that will give them the spring flowering trees they want without the risk of having, as you so accurately described it, another privet situation developing. I think the horse is already out of the barn, though, and I don't know if they can turn back the clock now that it already is happening.

I think the best explanation of how it has happened is that way back when ornamental pears first became popular, the main variety (as far as I can remember) out there was Bradford, which didn't/couldn't/wouldn't pollinate itself so we didn't see those little volunteers sprouting everywhere. At that point, I guess no one thought these trees could escape cultivation and become invasive since they couldn't pollinate themselves. Then plant breeders got involved in developing other improved varieties like Aristocrat and Chanticleer and people began planting them as well.. I think that is where the trouble began.

Since all these flower and they flower more or less at the same time, that bees and other pollinators fly from one tree to another in spring, spreading pollen as they go. That's perfectly natural and normal of course. Once you have the pollen from different varieties mixing, you can get, in essence, cross-pollinated hybrids between the different varieties of ornamental pear. Later on, birds eat the fruit and shed the seeds...and new ornamental pears that are crosses of the known commercial varieties are popping up everywhere in exactly the manner you are seeing there.

I haven't noticed it as much here in southern OK as what you're seeing there, but when we are down in the D-FW metroplex, I see these volunteers alongside some highways, especially near big residential neighborhoods. I first started noticing it maybe 5 or 6 years ago and it would be that I would see an ornamental pear in some place where no one logically would have planted one and I'd say "who would have put that tree there by the train tracks?", etc. It took me a while to realize they really were self-sown seedlings, but I became sure of it by watching the same trees in the same locations every spring and seeing they bloomed exactly at the same time as nearby ornamental pears and the flowers looked the same. By nearby, I mean within a mile or two, not necessarily a really close distance of a few yards.

I fear we do have a new privet situation deep into the developmental process and I don't think it is a situation that can be fixed or stopped. There's too many of the crossed self-seeded wild hybrids out there now to think there's a way to get rid of them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Example of a City's Effort To Stop The Planting of Ornamental Pears

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Dorothy, I have not noticed the birds eating them, but I agree that some seed passing through a bird improves germination.

When I was in the 9th grade (in the 1950's) we had an agri project of harvesting Poke seed, whiched involved fermenting them, drying, crushing and floating away the chaff, drying again, treating with acid, cleaning and drying again. We had to do all that work and the bird only had to eat the berry and go sit on a barbed wire fence or in a brush pile. We were told it could take up to 7 years for the seed to come up if not treated in some way.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 11:15AM
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Ah-ha, that would explain what we noticed last week in Arkansas. We noticed all of the white blooming trees along 540, this week, and I couldn't decide what they were. Al asked me what they were, and I told him that I didn't know, but maybe plums. The shape was wrong, but in some places they had almost reached thicket status, but many were taller than native plums, so I was confused.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 4:05PM
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