Tree profile: Callery Pear

Walking around the neighbourhood on a grey November day, you can’t help but notice that the Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is the only light on the street. Look at that! The rest of the trees are denuded, but this fellow is still glowing.

Because I remember when neighbours had one planted in their front yard, I could have sworn that Callery pears were among the choices in Toronto’s street tree program. However, they don’t appear on the current list.

Perhaps it’s because they have their detractors, especially of cultivars such as ‘Bradford’, disliked for its weak branches (not evident in an improved variety such as ‘Chanticleer.’) Others complain the trees are over used, which seems to be the fate of any generally trouble-free plant with multiple seasons of interest. In some areas of the continent, this Asian native has joined the list of invasive species, an important concern. I’m also not alone in finding that the spring flowers can smell like cat pee.

In the plus column, the white blooms are abundant and abundantly pretty. Afterwards, they leave ornamental (but unpalatable) reddish fruit, about the size of a cherry, amidst neat-looking glossy green leaves. The oval crown is well suited to smaller urban spaces.

But it’s at this time of year they show their stuff, with brilliantly coloured foliage that seems to linger after the other trees shut down their fall show.

So there you have the pros and cons to make an informed choice – or at least to appreciate someone else’s choice when you meet it on the street.


  1. I have to agree with you on the fall color and spring bloom. These guys do hold onto to their leaves for so long! It's a nice thing.

  2. Pears of all kinds are spectacular in fall and again in the spring with all those white blossoms.

    My preference is for fruiting pears. Pear sauce, made like applesauce with perhaps a bit of pineapple added; pear preserves, which we have adapted to low sugar and freeze instead of canning are the result of planting regular pears instead of ornamental. A very small pear tree can produce lots of pears.

  3. Wow, that last shot looks like a painting! Beautiful, and isn't it nice to have these splotches of colour this time of year…given what we know lies ahead? 😉

  4. Helen
    I need a course in 'Trees.' Growing up around concrete and asphalt did not prep me, and as I cannot grow trees in my tiny garden – the one before .. plus petit – my first-hand knowledge is limited. I've been immersed in the lore of shrubs, perennials, bulbs and tender plants. Wish I could hang out with you to soak up arboreal knowledge :~]

  5. I do like this tree. We can grow it here in the desert too.

    It is so nice to have a tree that changes color later then others in order to draw out the autumn color.

  6. Hi, first time commenter here. I started reading your blog a few weeks ago and I am really enjoying it. You have a way with words and your photos are beautiful. I live in Toronto and have my very own first garden and need all the help and inspiration I can get. Also I grew up far away from here and I really need some more local knowledge when it comes to gardening and the species that like it here. Thank you for sharing that with me.

  7. The city does have it on their list – the online brochure only shows the bigger canopy trees.

  8. The little fruit these produce are indeed palatable – after they've been bletted. Pick after a hard frost and they're soft and sweet; they taste like baked pears.

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