Question: We have a customer with an ornamental pear tree that is sprouting shoots throughout their entire front lawn. Do you have any recommendations regarding control, other than removing the tree?
Answer: Hello, and thanks for reaching out with your tree questions. It sounds like the seedlings from ornamental callery pear. For many years, the cultivar Bradford dominated the landscape and was not self-fruiting. But as newer, improved cultivars were introduced to landscapes, they were cross-fruitful with Bradford pears.
So now “volunteer” callery pear trees are seeding themselves in alarming numbers and from their roots as suckers even where they were not planted, helped along by birds. These seedling pears are extremely vigorous and quite precocious, coming into bloom and fruit at a very young age. The Indiana Invasive Species Council has listed this species as highly invasive in Indiana.
Remove seedling trees immediately or keep them mowed very low to prevent flowering and fruiting. Usually, the ordinary broadleaf weed sprays for turf will keep them down. If you have ornamental pear trees in your landscape, keep a close watch for fruit set. If your existing landscape specimens bore fruit this year, you can spray next spring with fruit inhibitor hormone (e.g., ethephon, Florel® fruit inhibitor) to reduce fruit set. Note that timing and thorough coverage is critical. The spray must be applied when plants are in the early stage of full bloom, before fruit sets. Typically, ornamental pear is in bloom for 10 to 14 days. It will be difficult to provide thorough coverage on larger specimens. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.
Below we have several resources that also expands upon the Callery Pear trees.
Invasive Plant Species: Callery Pear, Video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Now is the Time to Identify Callery Pear, Purdue Landscape Report
A “Perfect” Nightmare, Purdue Extension’s Indiana Yard and Garden
What are invasive species and why should I care?, Got Nature? Blog, Purdue FNR Extension
Invasive Species, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube Channel
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources