Why I Cut Down my Bradford Pears


By Sarah Wilson

Photo caption: Caterpillars are baby bird food. It takes 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to raise a single family of Chickadees. Caterpillars can’t survive on Bradford Pear leaves.

These trees are bullies. 

Bradford pears (aka Callery pears) are not native to the US. Most everything that eats them lives back in Asia, too, so these trees take over our landscape without contest.

Why does that matter? Because every bit of ground they usurp would have grown a native plant and now cannot. Native plants that our Missouri biodiversity depends on. Those miles of invaders along the roadways are smothering our local plants and animals. It doesn’t appear violent, but it is.

Yes, you’ll see some bees on the flowers — mostly generalist bees that pollinate almost anything. What you won’t see are our wonderful native specialist bees who evolved to feed on our then-abundant native species. These pollinators can’t feed on outsiders. And the plants that would nourish them are being pushed out.
And yes, some birds will eat the fruit but they would also gorge happily on native berries. 

The biggest problem about such invasive, alien plants? Our butterflies and moth caterpillars can’t survive on those unfamiliar leaves. Caterpillars are baby bird food. Author and entomologist, Doug Tallamy, reports it takes 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to raise a single family of Chickadees. And the buffet must be close by so the parents can deliver a few squirmers every few minutes for the 16-days it takes to raise their young.
Next spring, when you see Bradfords blooming, picture them slowly strangling our wildlife. Wildlife that has no choice in the matter. Wildlife that, someday, we will not be able to replace.

So, yes, I cut down my three big, healthy Bradford pears and replaced them with lovely Serviceberry trees. These native gems have fragrant, white flowers and plenty of berries (that you can eat, too) but, most importantly to me, Serviceberries support over 100 species of caterpillars. Thinking of all the baby birds that can feed!

Bottom line: what each of us grows makes a difference to the life around us. For myself,  I’ve always been passionate about wildlife, but these days, I’ve just had enough of bullies — in any form.