With weather warming across the Midwest, the sights and sounds of spring are getting closer. Unfortunately, not all those smells are delightful, and there's one particular tree that's contributing to some pungent, acrid smells around the area, particularly in Illinois.

You know the smell. Some say it reeks of rotting fish. Some say it smells like urine. Ether way, it's unpleasant, and the Callery pear tree is to blame.

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What is the Callery Pear Tree?:

The Callery pear tree comes in multiple varieties, including Bradford pear, Autumn Blaze, and Cleveland Select. It's native to Asia, and is now considered an invasive plant in the United States. It started to pop up in North America in the 1900s for agricultural use, per WGN.

According to Invasive.org, the tree is commonly found in the eastern part of the United States, "from New Jersey to Illinois and south to Texas."

Per WGN and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the tree, which is noted for its white flowers, became popular for its adaptability, color, and shape. However, the tree is infamous for its odor. The tree's blooms produce an acrid aroma akin to rotting fish, urine, or vomit.

Not Only Do They Smell, They're Dangerous to Plants and People:

As if the vile smell wasn't bad enough, the tree itself is a major threat to native grasslands and wildlife. A video from Southern Living notes that the tree's architecture is poor. They billed it as a "self-destructive plant:"

If you look at a Bradford pear [tree], you'll notice that all of its main branches come out from the same point on the trunk. This makes it extremely weak-wooded. [If you have these trees in your area] you're gonna see all these Bradford pears' [branches fallen] that look like they exploded. - Southern Living on YouTube

Photo Credit: Southern Living, YouTube
Photo Credit: Southern Living, YouTube

The tree is a threat to wildlife because it can rapidly fill in gaps in open spaces, which crowds out native plants. Callery pear trees were bred to be sterile, but different varieties have crosspollinated, which has led to the spread of fruit-bearing trees, per WGN:

Its success as an invader results from its capacity to produce copious amounts of seed that is dispersed by birds and possibly small mammals, seedlings that germinate and grow rapidly in disturbed areas and a general lack of natural controls like insects and diseases, with the exception of fire blight - per Invasive.org

Don't Try and Eat the Pears Too:

Photo Credit: Southern Living, YouTube
Photo Credit: Southern Living, YouTube

Whatever you do, don't try and eat any pears off a Callery pear tree. They are softened by frost, which makes them attractive to birds, but they are indelible for humans.

Read more about the Callery pear tree on both WGN's website and Invasive.org.

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