PENDLETON, SC (WSPA)–South Carolina will soon put a ban on the sale of invasive Bradford Pear Trees and three other species of trees.
Clemson University researchers said starting Oct. 1, 2024, Bradford Pear trees will no longer be legal to buy or sell in the state. South Carolina will be the second state in the U.S. with the ban.
According to Clemson’s website, “The ban on sales will begin Oct. 1, 2024, which is the annual nursery licensing renewal date in South Carolina. Ohio will become the first state on Jan. 1, 2023, after passing regulations banning the sale of the species in 2018 with a 5-year grandfathering period.”
“So nurseries won’t be growing it and vendors won’t be selling it,” said David Coyle, Assistant Professor for Dept. of Forestry & Environmental Conservation at Clemson University. “Bradford Pear is essential Callery Pear, and Callery Pear and Elaeagnus are huge invasive species problems not just in our state but across the whole southeastern U.S. They take over a lot of open areas, forested areas, natural areas. So, anything we can do to get them off the landscape, whether that’s out of people’s yards or out of other managed areas, is a great thing we can do for the environment.”
Some farmers who spoke with 7News stated they’re happy about it.
“The Wild Pear, which looks very similar, they’re an invasive species, very weed-like. So, from a farming perspective in pastures, trying to grow crops, all of those pears are a major nuisance to farmers. So, I’m really glad that they’re not allowing them to be perpetuated. I think it’s the right move ,” said Tom Merritt, Owner of Workmill Trees.
Coyle said the trees sprout beautiful white flowers in the Spring.
“The Callery Pears in the springtime, they’re that first pop of white flowers that you probably see pretty much everywhere along the roadsides, they’re one of the first things that bloom in the Spring,” Coyle said. “The Bradford Pears are shaped kind of like a lollipop, they’ve got a short stem and a big bushy canopy. Callery Pears, the canopies are a little longer almost football shaped,” he said.
Coyle also said the Wild Callery Pears are really detrimental.
“These Wild Callery Pears have thorns all over them, and so once they get three, four, five feet tall, you can’t really mow them over with any big machines,” Coyle said. “The thorns have been known to puncture tires. They will cut your skin pretty easy. We’ve seen where they will damage livestock. If livestock gets in there, it could cut their face up,” he added. “So, all of these Callery Pears that you see out in the wild areas, they’re basically a food desert for all the birds, so birds have to go somewhere else.”
Some farmers and nurseries said the demand for the trees have dwindled over the years.
“They do have a bad smell. The blooms, they smell when they bloom, and they’re very easy to crack or break during an ice storm or wind storm, so we probably in the last I don’t know 20 years, it almost been non-existence as far as people wanting Bradford Pear Trees,” said Woody Ellenburg, of Ellenburg Nursery. “We have no calls for them so we haven’t even carried them in 20 years.”
“And now that nobody is buying them, nobody wants them, we really just need to eradicate them, because they’re only a problem,” Merritt said. “It’s probably what every tree farmer and farmer is trying to do in this state anyway, is get rid of them.”
Merritt said the trees don’t bear fruit, but instead are ornamental trees.
Clemson University said online, if you still have them, it’s not illegal and nor will it be–when the ban is in place.
“While the ban on these plants will make them illegal to sell or trade within South Carolina, it’s important for the public to know it will not be illegal to possess them on their property or to keep what they have.”
Coyle said they do advise you to replace them, and the university can provide you with resources on the process.
“The tree police are not going to come to your house and cut your tree down. We certainly encourage you to cut your tree down. We’ve got a Bradford Pear Bounty Program that we’ll run every Spring, we’ll run every Fall, where if you cut your tree down, and bring us proof that you did that, we’ll give you a free native replacement tree,” Coyle said.
Some said by keeping the species, which have a weak branch structure, could only be a disaster waiting to happen.
“There’s always a chance of branches breaking, maybe not as big of a deal out in these wild areas, but if you have a Bradford Pear in your yard, I always tell people you’re one storm away from having a mess,” Coyle said.