Select Page

Woe the Ornamental Pear Tree: Invasive, But Does It Make the “Invasive List”?

Trouble’s brewing over the fate of Ornamental Pear [Pyrus calleryana] trees. It seems that this tree (you may know its cultivar names such as Aristocrat, Bradford, Chanticleer, Cleveland Select, Redspire, Trinity, or Jaczam) is becoming invasive in northeastern Illinois. In fact, Cathy McGlynn, coordinator of the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, told me that attempts to regulate its sale were recently proposed because conservationists fear that “it may become the next Buckthorn.” In fact, just last week–presumably because nurserymen (with lots of ornamental pear trees to sell) freaked out–the Illinois Invasive Species Council decided to slow down on regulation, opting not to list the pear as an “exotic weed” at this time but instead to do “education and outreach and shift market focus”, according to McGlynn. (Methinks this means that the Ornamental Pears will not be for sale anymore in 3-5 years, so watch for some good $$ deals from nurserymen…).

photo-31 ornamental pear

(Note: there is a small 12′ x 15′ pear tree that is of a different species: Pyrus fauriei ‘Korean Sun’. No word on the invasive aspect of this species.)

Now all this is enough to make Queen Bee quite crazy. Why? Because while we should (rightly) worry about pear trees, the elephant in the room is still, even after decades of education,  BUCKTHORN. This tree is without a doubt the most injurious invasive plant in Illinois. Sadly, it is only illegal to sell buckthorn (see the Exotic Weed Act below) but it is still quite okay to continue to grow it on your property, which means it is not on Illinois’ Noxious Weed Law (see below for list of the plants that require eradication).

Why isn’t the disgusting Buckthorn banned? Because homeowners think it is a great screening plant and refuse to spend the money to take it out and plant appropriate shrubbery that stays put. And elected officials who could change the law listen to their whining neighbors. To that I say, “Enough is Enough!”. If we can ban smoking in restaurants and public places, we can insist that Buckthorn be banned too. Start easy if one must (Queen Bee holds her nose here): create a law that only outlaws all the female Buckthorn plants (the ones with black berries that the birds eat and then spread). But move ahead with stating that Buckthorn is a noxious weed. Our legacy as gardeners must be to demand of each other that we all save our wild areas from Buckthorn. And Garlic Mustard. And, yes, Pear trees…

If you want to see where Ornamental Pear trees and other “new” invasives are being spotted in northeastern Illinois, here’s an interesting website: http://www.newinvaders.org/. And here’s a link to an Ohio research study on Pears’ invasiveness: Theresa Culley, Spread and Ecological Impacts of Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) and Other Ornamentals in Southwestern Ohio. (Webmaster’s note 04-2019:  Broken Link, could not find this article. See The Beginning of a New Invasive Plant by T. Culley.)

Illinois Exotic Weed Act

It shall be unlawful for any person, corporation, political subdivision, agency or department of the State to buy, sell, offer for sale, distribute or plant seeds, plants or plant parts of exotic weeds including:

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica); Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula); Saw-toothed buckthorn (Rhamnus arguta); Dahurian buckthorn (Rhamnus davurica); Japanese buckthorn (Rhamnus japonica); Chinese buckthorn (Rhamnus utilis)

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

Illinois Noxious Weed Law: 

It shall be the duty of every person to control the spread of and to eradicate all noxious weeds on lands owned or controlled by him in the State of Illinois.

Marihuana (Cannabis sativa L.)  [Editor: we’re they smoking it while they were trying to spell it??!]

Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.) and Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia L.) within the corporate limits of cities, villages, and incorporated towns

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Perennial Sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis);

Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans);

Perennial members of the Sorghum genus, including Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), Sorghum almumand other Johnsongrass x sorghum crosses with
rhizomes;

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

According to its website, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network is working with the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, Chicago Botanic Garden, Lake County (IL) Forest Preserve District, and The Nature Conservancy to provide information to both nurseries and consumers about ornamental plants that have become invasive plants in native areas.  Some of these ornamental escapees include –

Burning Bush (Euonymous alatus) (this species is banned in Massachusetts and declared invasive in Connecticut and New Hampshire)

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)  (it’s sale has been banned in Oregon and it is on the Washingston State Noxious Weed List)

Callery (Bradford) Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Common or European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) [on the Illinois Exotic Weed Act List]

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)  (voluntary phase out of 25 cultivars in Connecticut. Lake Forest IL bans Barberry but no other plant, yet it is ubiquitously planted by residents who apparently haven’t received the no-no memo.)

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) (declared invasive in NH)

Oriental (Asian) Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

Porcelain Berry/Porcelain vine/Amur Peppervine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

Last, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and its Illinois Invasive Plant Council have this REALLY LONG list of nasty plant varmints: http://www.invasive.org/species/list.cfm?id=152 which includes Pyrus calleryana but then splits the difference, listing only ‘Bradford’. Is it just ‘Bradford’ that’s the problem or is it all the cultivars (dopey question–definitely all that set seeds). Another ecological restoration “head scratcher” as this Queen Bee sees it.##

 

Tulip Mania!

P1040568I snapped this photo of tulips while passing by the gatehouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I’m usually not a fan of tulip mixes (too gaudy), but I thought the yellow/orange and blue/purple combo used here was excellent. If you want to copy the example, the tulips used are: Tulipa ‘Big Smile’, ‘Blushing Apeldoorn’, ‘Caravelle’, ‘Gavota’, ‘Golden Parade’, ‘Jenny’, ‘Negrita’, ‘Salmon Pearl’, ‘Yellow Present’), backed by fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri) and underlaid with Fizzy Fruit Salad pansy (Viola wittrockiana ‘Fizzy Fruit Salad Mix’).

And then all you need is lotsa money and a musclebound hunka-hunka to plant 1,000 bulbs, but no problem with finding those, right?##

How Many Inches of Rain Does It Take to Fill Lake Michigan?

This morning landscape architect Deidre Toner kindly forwarded information from The Morton Arboretum which said that 17.81″ of rain have fallen there in 2013. In April, the official count was 9.78″ of rain! I got pretty pumped thinking that must mean that Lake Michigan has completely recovered from being two feet below “normal”. But (duh), Queen Bee, think again and maybe have another cuppa coffee this morning. Seventeen inches translates to only two inches spread across Lake Michigan, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. If you are a weather freak, here’s the link to the Corps’ charts on Lake Michigan water levels: http://www.lre.usace.army.mil/Missions/GreatLakesInformation/GreatLakesWaterLevels/WaterLevelForecast/WeeklyGreatLakesWaterLevels.aspx

Erosion on beach at Lake Road 4-19-2013 3-34-56 PM 4320x3240By the way, I’m posting this nasty photograph which shows how a significant slice of beach eroded in Lake Forest after the deluge of April 18, 2013. Water from municipal and private stormwater pipes ran so fast and furious down the narrow ravine leading to this section of beach that it cut this sharp gouge in the sand. There’s much to be done to solve these (highly solveable) erosion problems, but there is a dedicated team of people working on regional solutions. The Alliance for Lake Michigan has produced an excellent ravine webinar. You will not regret spending an hour listening–and if you are a ravine or bluff owner or if you are in the landscape contract and design trade, please sign up for their emails because the Alliance, together with Openlands and “Plants of Concern”, is working on creating brochures of plants appropriate for various ravine conditions, a “rapid response assessment program” for training gardeners in assessing ravine health, and educational ravine seminars at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Thank you, Alliance!##

 

Meet Jelena!

It’s March 10 and a very gray day (did you turn your clocks ahead?), but I want you to meet ‘Jelena’. She’s a fiery orange flower blooming right now, unaware that there’s still a lot of snow on the ground and more planned to come.

Jelena blooms on what is arguably my favorite shrub, the Witchhazel. Some call this bush, the Snapping Hazel, a name I prefer not only because it captures the look of this exploding, “bad hair day” flower but also because “Snapping Hazel” sounds like a dame I’d like to share a martini and a political argument with. But never mind, the name, Witchhazel, has its own charms. 

The great tree essayist, Donald Culross Peattie (love his name too) who could humanize any tree with his poetic descriptions, points out that it was the wood of the Wych (“to bend”, in Anglo-Saxon) that was once used to douse, divine, or doodlebug for underground water, oil, or gold.

18th_century_dowser

Note that this gentleman may be using the wrong wood if his extremely worried look is any indication…

Witchhazel is not easy to find in your local garden center. I once went looking for it, only to be told by the garden center manager that I’d never find it. After all, why stock a plant that blooms in March when no normal garden customer is shopping. Good point. You’ll have to buy it out of bloom and trust me on this one. Buy a lot of them and plant them in front of conifers for a real blast of color just when we need it most: NOW.

Take a look at the slide show below of witchhazels being tested at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Good places to buy Witchhazel:
CJ Fiore (Prairie Grove and Chicago, IL)
Johnson’s Nursery (Menomonee Falls, WI)
Chalet (Wilmette, IL)