Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

Want to know more about Ron Wilson? Get his official bio, social pages and more!Full Bio


Alternatives to Callery Pears - Ashley Kulhanek Ann Chanon

As you may now know, Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana, and its cultivars (examples include 'Bradford', 'Cleveland Select', 'Chanticleer', etc) are officially on the Ohio Invasive Plants List. On Saturday, January 7, 2023, it became ILLEGAL to plant, grow, propagate, or sell Callery Pear in Ohio. It is now deemed to be an invasive species in many states and similar bans have gone into effect in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.


Callery Pear is a small, deciduous flowering tree native to China that that was originally brought to the U.S. as a source of resistance to the disease fire blight, Erwinia amylovora.  It became popular as a landscape tree for its white flowers, site adaptability, and compact size. Individual trees cannot self-pollinate but can and do hybridize with other Pyrus calleryana selections, native, or domesticated pears, resulting in a fertile fruit. This resulted in the trees' spread by birds and wildlife, which soon choked native plants and invaded disturbed areas and forests.


Under the rule:

- Nurseries and garden centers with remaining stock are not allowed to sell these trees and must destroy them.

- Homeowners and landscapers may not purchase nor install them.

- Have one in your yard? You do NOT need to remove it.


However, with an arguably stinky flower, messy fruit, weak branch angles, and its tendency to spread and invade... maybe it is worth considering a replacement tree. But what to choose?


If you are looking for a white-flowered alternative to Callery Pear in your landscape, or just need some suggestions for a new tree, consider these!


Let's Start with the EARLY BLOOMERS....

Serviceberry, Amelanchier spp.

Serviceberry is an Ohio native with four seasons of landscape interest. It is available as a large, multi-stemmed shrub or trained to a small tree. (Height 15-25 feet with an oval to round crown). Like Callery pear, it has a crisp white flower in early spring, blooming at around 150-160 Growing Degree Days. This would put its bloom within hours to days of ‘Bradford’ Callery pear which blooms at 142 GDD. In addition to flowers, the blue-green foliage of summer transforms into shades of gold to reddish orange in autumn, making it, as Michael Dirr states, “…one of our finest native trees for fall coloration” pg. 101.  


Many cultivars have been selected for their fall color, some of these are: Apple Serviceberry, a hybrid (A. X grandiflora), with names such as ‘Autumn Blaze', ‘Autumn Sunset’, and ‘Autumn Brilliance’.  ‘Ballerina’ has been selected for excellent leaf spot resistance and low occurrence of fireblight in susceptible years. 


White Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Cercis canadensis var. alba is a tree that can be found growing sporadically throughout Eastern North America. This is a naturally occurring white flowered form of the more common pinkish purple Eastern Redbud. This small 15-25’ tree has a vase like to rounded shape.

As a member of the Fabaceae family, Cercis have pea like flowers. The flowers bloom just after serviceberry and alongside some of the first flowering crabapples at 191 GDD. The flowers are followed by distinctive heart shaped 2.5” green leaves and pea like seed pods. There are several cultivars of the white form of Eastern Redbud including the upright ‘Royal White’ and weeping ‘Vanilla Twist’ PP22744 introduced by plantsman Tim Brotzman of Madison, Ohio.


White Crabapple (Malus spp)

Love them or hate them, crabapples can be a suitable replacement for Callery pear! There are HUNDREDS of types of crabapples varying in size, bloom time, color, and shape. For our purposes here, many cultivars have white flowers such as ‘Adirondack’, ‘Beverly’, ‘David’, ‘Donald Wyman’, Golden Raindrops(R), Harvest Gold(R), and heavens! So many more. Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, Ohio boasts a substantial crabapple collection. If you need inspiration, feel free to browse the list and take a drive out to view them. They are a site to behold in bloom, best viewing occurring around 200 GDD. This may help you select YOUR next crabapple.


Tree Amigo, Eric Draper of Geauga County shared a few of his favorites: including ‘Adirondack’, ‘Firebird’, ‘Lollipop’, ‘Pumpkin Pie’, Sargent Crabapple (Malus sargentii), Tina (Malus sargentii ‘Tina’), ‘Calloway’, ‘King Arthur’, ‘Guinevere’, ‘ Holiday Gold’, ‘Dolgo’ (for those wishing edible landscape types) and ‘Silver Moon’.


Shown: Flowers of cultivar, 'Pumpkin Pie' which has extraordinary orange fruit!Shown: 'Adirondack' Crabapple in bloom at Secrest Arboretum. Its white flowers and compact form may be a nice replacement for Callery pear.


With deeply cut and textured leaves, I would never have known THIS is a crabapple! Shown here the foliage of 'Golden Raindrops', a white flowering, low disease selection with golden yellow fruit.


But why limit yourself to white flowers when we’re talking crabapples! So many beautiful red and pink varieties exist too. This article by Jim Chatfield gives just a few highlights of the stunning pinks and reds of crabapples.


IMPORTANTLY... when selecting a crabapple pay attention to disease resistance. The problem many people have with crabapple is apple scab which can cause premature leaf-drop and an unsightly mess early in the season. However, many cultivars now have good to excellent resistance for apple scab and fireblight to keep your landscape plants in good appearance most years. 




Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina)

In underused native, Carolina Silverbells, is a small to medium size tree with beautiful, showy bell-shaped flowers. A member of the styracaceae, it has no serious pest issues unlike some members of the rosaceae. However, it can be susceptible to chlorosis issues in higher pH as it prefers slightly acidic soil. It does not do well in drought conditions. 

Bloom occurs between 213 - 266 GDD. The fall color is nothing to write home about but does have a slightly attractive yellow autumn color. It attracts hummingbirds and can host several species of moth and butterfly caterpillars. It will bloom after only a few years and has a long life expectancy. It has the potential to have a dramatic leaning and twisting trunk as it really matures up. 


Dogwood (Cornus spp.)

Michael Dirr notes that there are over 50 species of Dogwood from ground cover to trees. 


Cornus kousa is a favorite as a four-season tree with its exfoliating bark, edible pink fruit, and white flowers. It reaches15-20’ in size with a rounded form. The 2-5" showy white "flower petals" are actually bracts that ring the smaller yellow-green true flowers at the center, which produce beautiful raspberry-like reddish fruit that last into autumn and attract wildlife. Leaves generally have good scarlet to red-purple color in fall and the bark exfoliates with age to reveal several shades of orange, tan, and gray for all season interest.


Kousa also carries more resistance to many of the pests that affect flowering dogwood, C.florida. This plant has better disease resistance to anthracnose and better cold hardiness than flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, and is an excellent alternative to flowering dogwood in areas where dogwood anthracnose is a problem.While non-native, it has NOT been found invasive. It is cold hardy in Ohio, possibly up to zone 4. 


There are white and pink flowering forms as well as selections with variegated leaves. ‘Milky Way Select’ very larger flowers, good orange red fall color best resistance to anthracnose. Florida dogwood starts to bloom around 263 GDD. Kousa dogwood starts to bloom around 593 GDD for mid-season interest. 



Sweet Bay Magnolia , Magnolia virginiana

Sweet Bay Magnolia blooms later in the season, between 566-717 Growing Degree Days. 

This small tree is native from Massachusetts to Florida and is a nice selection for wetter sites. The tree reaches a height of 10-25’ tall with vase forms or spreading forms which makes a great specimen tree.


The cup-shaped 2-3” creamy white flowers have 9-12 petals with a sweet lemon fragrance. Yum. The elliptic to lanceolate leaves are shiny dark green above and silver green underneath give the tree a two-toned appearance when the wind blows. Cone-like fruits with bright red seeds mature in fall and can be showy.


It can be a faster growing tree. As with any tree, plan for the space it will need when it matures. 

This plant has no serious pests or diseases, but it can be host to the puffy and honeydew spewing Magnolia Scale (Neolecanium cornuparvum). While a big and showy scale, catching it early is always the best bet. Read more about magnolia scale here. 


This species prefers organic acidic soils but tolerates heavy clay or wet soils unlike other magnolias. It is susceptible to chlorosis in alkaline soils.


*White Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus

*If you're willing to try... we know that EAB can use this as a host tree... see below.


In the landscape, fringetree is often found as a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree. It has a widespread and slow growth that allows it to be a great option for a small-tree space or specimen tree. Its genus name, Chionanthus comes from the greek Chion (snow) and Anthos (flower), these "SNOW FLOWERS" have slender white petals and are slightly fragrant. It leafs out and blooms (435 GDD) later than Callery pear, but still provides a gentle white flowering tree as a feature in your yard.


Like many plants it prefers moist, well drained, fertile soils but is described as being EXTREMELY ADAPTABLE, surviving well in full sun to partial shade and various soil types, including clay. This is great news for many landscapes. With few problem pests it could be a great option for many landscapes; HOWEVER, there is one notable exception. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Fringetree has been found to be a secondary host for Emerald Ash Borer. In studies, it has been found that EAB can cause damage and even death of some white fringetrees. In one study in Ohio between 2015-2018, damage was severe enough to warrant removal of the tree in 7% of the examined trees (Ellison, 2020). Other individual trees did not experience any die back. So, factor this into your decision to try this tree in your yard. Emerald Ash Borer populations may have reduced after the initial die off of so many ash, but the beetle is NOT gone from Ohio. Fringetree may also be protected from EAB by the standard pesticides for the pest.


Syringa reticulata, Tree Lilac

This non-native from Japan has become a common replacement as a street tree instead of Callery Pear, at least in my neck of the woods in Northeast Ohio.  Use caution in planting a monoculture of any species.


This tree reaches a height of 20-30’ at maturity with an oval crown. The 6-16” panicles of creamy white flowers are attractive to a variety of pollinators. The leaves are simple, ovate, and dark green. Fall color is not showy. The bark is dark reddish brown and shiny with prominent lenticels. This plant has low maintenance requirements. It can tolerate salt, pollution and urban conditions and is pH adaptable.


Ivory Silk Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata ssp. Reticulata 'Ivory Silk') is currently one of the better-known cultivars. 


From his series of street tree articles, Tom DeHaas suggests, "Syringa pekinensis ‘WFH2’™, Great Wall Tree Lilac is a good choice for its pest and disease resistance. Syringa pekinensis ‘Beijing Gold’™, Beijing Gold Peking Lilac makes an ideal small street tree." (BYGL: Street Trees Part 9)



And of course, there are many other trees that can be suitable alternatives to Callery Pear. These were just a few white-flowered options for the Ohio landscape. Check out the STREET TREES Series by Tom DeHaas for more inspiration and other articles and stay tuned to BYGL for more updates on all your HORT news! Have conversations with your local nursery and see what they are having success within the area where you are located too!  

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content