Make multiple use of your spring day afield

Callery Pear 2
Callery pears can take over a meadow or fencerow in no time. (Photo courtesy of Steve Pollick)

When readying your shoulder bag or backpack with gear for a spring turkey hunt, consider adding a small folding bow-saw, a small but sturdy container of herbicide, latex disposable gloves, a mesh bag, and a plastic grocery sack.

The extra items will extend your day afield, perhaps add something good to eat, and help improve the landscape. To explain:

That flimsy plastic grocery sack – just like the unsightly ones blown loose into trees and crop stubble – will hold litter. On the way out of the field, collect those odd beer cans, candy wrappers, and other trash that inconsiderate others have littered. Light the proverbial candle, don’t curse the darkness. You will feel better for it, and the next person on the path will have that much more pleasant an experience.

The mesh sack is to hold morels. These lovely, edible fungi, easily identified, are ripe for the picking right at turkey season. With turkey hours ending at noon in the first two weeks in the South Zone of Ohio, why end a lovely day too soon just because a gobbler did not come your way? Spend an hour or two after the hunt nosing around the woods for morels. Store them in the mesh bag so they get air and stay fresh. Then wash them gently at home, dry, slice, and saute in butter. The reward for your gathering efforts is in the eating.

The bow-saw, herbicide, and latex gloves are for the dirty job: Helping eliminate what might be considered a pretty plant pestilence – the unwarranted, feral spread of callery pears.

Callery pears were introduced to the United States through the U.S. Department of Agriculture a century ago from Asia to supposedly fight pear-tree blight, through grafting edible pears to blight-resistant callery roots. In 1952 the USDA began developing a mutant form, the Bradford, for its ornamental potential. By the early 1960s it was commercially cultivated and multiple cloned varieties went on the landscaping market. Soon their lovely lush early spring white blooms were showing up in private yards and along city streets everywhere.

Trouble is, the callery varieties are not “infertile” even though pears are not “self-compatible” (or self-fertile). But once several types of callery pears were on the market (like “Cleveland Select” which was bred to bear snow loads without breaking) they fertilized each other.

The callery fruits are marble size and hard and inedible to us. But birds and other animals can eat them and spread the seeds. Nature videographers have tape of birds taking callery pears, and the normally hard fruits, frost-softened in autumn or squished on a sidewalk, offer exposed feed and seeds or starlings and robins, among others.

They also spread by root-sprouting and crowd out useful native trees and shrubs such as wild dogwoods. Their waxy leaves are insect resistant, so the “bugs” are no help controlling them. Callery pears can take over a meadow or fencerow in no time.

Ohio and Indiana are among 12 midwestern and western states that have reported invasions, though most are in the South and Northeast. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has banned sale of callery pears and its ornamental varieties as of next January. Unfortunately, the invasive-species train already has left the station.

If you are on your own property or have permission from the landowner, spend some post-hunt time sawing down a callery pear or two. Or a bunch. Don the latex gloves to pour a dose of tree-herbicide on the stumps. For best results, saw several cross-hatches in the fresh-sawn stump to allow the herbicide to penetrate. Note that an old plastic ketchup squeeze-bottle (marked “poison!”) makes a good container to carry a prepared herbicide such as Roundup.) Use the kind of bottle with the easy-snap lid and membrane-lined hole for reduced leakage.

You can find out more than you want to know about this fairy-tale-tree-turned-nightmare by looking up “callery pear” on-line. Suffice to say, despite the eye-pleasing appearance of the blossoms, these trees are bad news, just like bush honeysuckle.

Getting rid of or at least controlling the feral spread of callery pears is going to take some years, just like controlling another well-intended landscaping “flower” gone feral in our marshlands and ditches — purple loosestrife. But every one we can take out is a step in the right direction.

Oh, and just because they look pretty, know that callery pears stink. The stench from the tree’s billowing white blossoms have been likened to the odor of rotting fish, chlorine, or a cheese sandwich left in a car for a week.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Ohio – Steve Pollick, Turkey

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