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Bradford Pears, Stinky Fish, and Butterflies

Do you currently have a tree in your yard or neighborhood producing scores of lovely white blossoms along with the unmistakable fragrance of rotting fish? 

I am guessing you are the “lucky” owner of a Bradford pear tree. Loved by landscapers for many years, this invasive tree has become fairly common in North Carolina. Introduced to the US in 1964, the Bradford pear was thought to be sterile with a structure so weak it would never survive past the 20-year mark. Voila! We thought we had found the perfect easy to grow, lovely, non-invasive tree. But, not quite. While it cannot cross-pollinate with another Bradford pear, it can produce new trees with other species of the pear tree. The mix of old and new caused some of the new trees to revert back to the original stock of ancient Chinese Callery pear. This species forms impenetrable thorny thickets that choke out native pines, dogwoods, maples, redbuds, oaks, and hickories.  

If you have a Bradford pear on your property, please consider cutting it down as soon as you can stand to get near it. Seriously. The Bradford pear can be worse than kudzu. Those of us who traveled to Helena, Arkansas with CBF were stunned to see kudzu covering houses, hills, and just about anything that stood still in that small town. We have seen what an invasive plant can do.  Consider replacing the Bradford pear with a plant that is native to North Carolina. This link provides a good place to start looking for native pollinator plants.  Also, our local nurseries are knowledgeable and always willing to help. 

Why are native plants so very important? They provide food and shelter to the organisms living in our ecosystems. Non-natives usually do not provide those basic survival tools to our insects, bees, birds, and other animals and plants. Without natural predators, introduced species may choke out organisms that do supply essentials for life. 

The proliferation of non-native organisms, farming, buildings, roads, bridges, and asphalt highways have reduced the space available for our native plants to grow and flourish.  But we can change that!  A few years ago, the North Carolina Wildlife Foundation began to encourage participation in the Butterfly Highway project. Many K-12 schools, universities, private property owners, and formal gardens are now also including native plants to attract and support migrating butterflies such as Monarchs and Swallowtails.  

Without tearing down structures we need for survival, how can you help? Plant a pollinator tree, shrub, vine, or herbaceous plant in your yard or in a container on your porch. Every plant you add to your outdoor space helps to provide a rest stop for migrating butterflies and birds. We can close the gap by turning our yards into miniature parks and gardens – spaces that improve the ecosystems around us and give us a sanctuary for enjoying God’s incredible creation. 

This link will provide more ideas to help you get started on creating, repairing, or expanding the natural areas around you. Enjoy!

– Marcia Ostendorff