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Callery pear a beautiful, unwelcome tree

| Sunday, April 15, 2012, 11:40 p.m.
Callery and Bradford pear trees line properties throughout Murrysville. Lillian DeDomenic | Trib Total Media

They might have looked spectacular while in full bloom a couple of weeks ago, but callery pear trees are not as harmless as they seem - and they aren't welcome in Murrysville.

Mayor Bob Brooks is asking residents and business owners who have planted the flowering trees to remove the invasive plants and replace them with a friendlier species.

"Murrysville is having a tough time with the callery pear tree. We are working very hard to reduce the use of invasive plant species in Murrysville's parks and free spaces," Brooks said. "We're asking for everyone's help to avoid planting or removing their callery pear trees and replacing them with Hawthorns or other pretty non-invasive trees common to our area."

According to a recent municipal survey, there are more than 200 callery pear trees planted along the Route 22 corridor.

Shaped like a teardrop, the trees - which are indigenous to Asia - are considered to be invasive plants, which means they spread aggressively outside of their natural environment. Many consider Callery pear trees to be the most difficult invasive plant to remove manually because of the length of the trees' taproots and the thorns that grow along the tree.The species is resistant to sickness and blight. While many prize it for its shape and attractive white flowers, its blossoms emit a fish-like odor, and the branch structure that contributes to its pleasing shape makes it particularly susceptible to wind damage.

Wind doesn't just shear its branches, it helps the invasive species spread quickly.

"These pear trees make our job extremely hard," Brooks said. "They proliferate easily when birds and wind carry their berries nearby. Even the young plants quickly develop strong tap root systems that make their destruction and removal difficult."

Invasive plants grow easily on disturbed land, said Pia van de Venne, volunteer coordinator for Friends of Murrysville Parks. Van de Venne has seen the trees thrive from Kentucky to West Virginia, and she worries about their presence in Murrysville. About 20 of the trees grew along the flood plain of Turtle Creek in Duff Park, where the water disturbs the soil. They were removed in December.

Park volunteers also offered to remove several of the trees from Murrysville Dek Hockey. With the owners' agreement, the group replaced the trees with about 10 hawthorne trees, van de Venne said.

Hawthorne are noninvasive flowering trees often used for landscaping. Brooks said he would like to see more people plant in the municipality. He said he appreciates any resident or business owners' willingness to help promote "the natural wildlife and birds and plants which are native to this Western Pennsylvania region."

Van de Venne said she is pleased with the mayor's decision.

"I applaud our mayor for supporting the same ideas as I have about the callery pear," van de Venne said. "It is a threat to Duff Park, which is a very important park for Murrysville. It is a destination park for people who want to look at the pretty wildflowers and trees that we have.

"If Duff Park would get overrun with those pear trees, it would be a dreadful thing."

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