Non-fruit bearing pear trees are commonly referred to as flowering pear trees or callery pear. The trees are primarily used as ornamental plantings for their spring blooming flowers. Numerous hybrids of flowering pear trees have been bred especially for improved flowering. The majority of the non-fruit bearing pear trees are from the Pyrus calleryana species while fruit bearing pear trees are from the Pyrus communis species.
Callery pear, also referred to a Bradford pear, is a deciduous tree with a mature height of 30 to 50 feet with a 20 to 30 feet spread. The tree has a tear drop shape and is multi branched. The tree is native to Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam and is naturalized throughout most of the central, eastern and southern regions of the United States.
The tree has 2 to 3-inch long, oval, leathery leaves that assume orange, red, purple, and yellow shades in fall. The leaves have wavy margins and stay on the tree late into fall. The 1-inch wide, white flowers grow in 3-inch wide clusters of 12 flowers. The early blooming flowers appear before the leaves in spring. The blooms are not fragrant and have heavy pollen content. The flowers are followed by ½ inch, inedible, non-showy fruit referred to as pomes.
Flowering pear tree is hardy in USDA Zones 4 or 5 to 8 and grows best in well-drained moderately moist soil with a preferred pH of 5.0 to 6.5. Plant in a site receiving full to partial sun. The recommended time to plant the tree is during early spring. Flowering pear tree adapts well to urban stresses like drought, poor soil conditions and pollution. Trees that are 15 to 20 years old are highly prone to splitting as the close growing main branches break off.
The seeds of the tree are spread frequently by birds and mammals and germinate rapidly to create uncontrolled thickets. The trees have the tendency to compete aggressively with both the native and non-native vegetation especially when established in hedgerows and old fields. To control possible thickets, pull and remove seedlings from moist soil. Dig out smaller trees making sure to remove all the roots. Cut down larger trees and treat stumps with systemic herbicides like triclopyr or glyphosate.