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Recently at the grassland

THE CALLERY PEAR CHALLENGE                           





How did we get here?


Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is an Asian tree hybrid to provide many advantages.  Beautiful, poor- soil tolerant, seedless, blight resistant, the intent was to create the perfect ornamental tree.   


Many cultivars were co-mingled by pollinators creating a dangerous and highly invasive tree that takes decades to overcome.  In an urban setting, it’s a nuisance with a nasty smell and v-shaped branches that break easily.  In open areas, it escapes and infests public lands, greenways, easements and ecological grasslands at an alarming rate.


A perfect storm


The greatest infestation occurs when farms and open areas are newly developed into residential and commercial settings.  Single family homes, residential complexes, commercial campuses, long driveways and suburban streets needing parkway trees are landscaped using callery pear extensively.  Why not?  They’re a beautiful focal point.  The owners and caregivers are unaware of the damage being caused.  The landscapes stay neat and tidy with mowed lawns and mulched landscaped areas diligently weeded.  The escape into surrounding open areas, however, is ferocious


Why do we care?


Grasslands are especially vulnerable to callery pear.  In just a couple of years grasslands will go from prime breeding habitat for rare birds to a thickly wooded area bringing a fundamental halt to a complex ecosystem.  Grasslands are very important to combat climate change.  A healthy grassland can sequester more carbon than a callery pear monoculture.  We need to protect our grassland ecosystems from collapse.


What do we do now?


Many states have banned callery pear and have removal/trade-in programs.  Illinois is working toward it, but the infestation rate far outpaces the State’s movement.  It’s not enough to ban the buy/sell of the species, the surrounding infestation will continue to fuel the spread if not removed.


Education is key.--Using a 3-tiered approach, influence the greatest numbers of stewards, land managers, advocacy groups and State officials (stakeholders) to educate and engage the general public.


Suitable replacements–Redbud, American Plum, Serviceberry, Flowering dogwood, Hawthorn, Flowering Crab

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Photo by Mary Ann Waglia

                                 MEDIA OUTLET LINKS


  • New York Times article

Comprehensive overview on callery pear and discussion of successful swap in South Carolina.


  • WGN Radio Podcast with volunteer steward, Pat Hayes


  • South Carolina–Professional magazine announces the callery pear ban.



  • Oklahoma–1:43 min. promotional video by OSU Natural Resources, short but telling










Buy-Back Plan


Fact Sheet

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Photo by Mike Rzepka

Earth Hour night hike:

hear, see, feel, smell

life on the grassland

More than 30 people hiked Orland Grassland during Earth Hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., March 25. The night was misty and chilly, but any discomfort experienced by the hikers was rewarded with a full-on sensory experience of nature after dark.

Pay Hayes reports, "We heard every sound American Woodcocks make—the peeps, the whirls and flutters—throughout the grassland. They were everywhere. We heard snipes, we think....We heard frogs. We walked through ephemeral streams making their way through the grass: 'Look! It’s flowing! There’s a current!'  We felt the mist on our faces.  We experienced nature through all our senses."


Hikers saw dimly through the foggy haze, assisted only by flashlights pointed toward the ground and the green glow of light stick necklaces. They had the rare chance to experience silence, broken only by the soft sounds of nature.


Returning from the hike along Birdsong Trail, one hiker exclaimed, with some disgust, "Ugh! We're almost back; I smell LaGrange Road!" 

Hikers gather for post-hike treats, lingering at the grassland until rain shut down the event shortly after 10 p.m. The Earth Hour hike was initiated and organized by Becky Erickson. Special assistance was provided by Bill Fath, Mike McNamee, and Marnie Baker. Photos by Pat Hayes.

The Earth Hour night hike was specially permitted by the Cook County Forest Preserves. All forest preserves, including Orland Grassland, are open to the public only from dawn to dusk.

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