Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ was once touted as the perfect, sterile garden or landscape tree. It has now bred prolifically with other pear species and spread so extensively that it is now on South Carolina’s invasive plant list. Now is an excellent time to replace these pest trees with something more ecologically sound. We have several options to choose from at the South Carolina Plant Sale or visit your local nursery to find alternatives. The SCBG plant sale is online again this spring; details are here: https://www.clemson.edu/public/scbg/plant-sale/index.html
One tree, in particular, has become a favorite of mine as I have walked our Natural Heritage Trail this spring: the Mexican plum (Prunus mexicanus). Located on the Trail at the Carolina Bay, this specimen has been a showstopper. It’s covered so heavily in white blooms that it takes your breath away. A native to the U.S., it thrives in zones 6-8 in a variety of rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade, and, once established, it is drought tolerant. The abundant blossoms give way to yellow-green leaves that turn a stunning yellow to orange in the fall. It is medium size tree with a rounded form and grows between 15 -25’ tall with a similar spread.
Mexican plum is an excellent wildlife plant. The heavy covering of blossoms attracts many pollinators, particularly early spring bees and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for both the tiger swallowtail butterfly and cecropia moth. The plums are very attractive to birds and small mammals, but also to humans who can eat the fruit raw or make them into preserves.
In addition to the Mexican plum, there are several other floriferous alternatives to the invasive Bradford pear available at our plant sale:
- Dogwood: Cornus florida: ‘Cherokee Princess’ (white), ‘Cherokee Chief’ (red), ‘Suwannee Squat’
- Pagoda dogwood, Cornus alternifolia
- Redbud, Cercis canadensis
- Fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus
- Titi, Cyrilla racemiflora
- Downy serviceberry, Amelanchier arborea
- Devilwood, Cartrema (Osmanthus) americana
- Sweet bay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana
Related fact sheets: