Invasive plants are wreaking havoc on Indiana's ecosystems.
It's why last year the state put the Terrestrial Plants Rule into effect, banning 44 species of them from the landscaping trade. But experts say there were a few glaring plants left off the list.
Most notably? The Bradford pear tree.
This plant, favored by landscapers for its beautiful white blooms and stately appearance, is one of Indiana's most criminal invasive species.
Bradford pear trees, also called Callery pears, bloom earlier in the year, giving them an advantage over native species and allowing them to take their resources for its own. The trees have become so ubiquitous in Indiana that in some places you can find entire fields of them.
But while they are bad for the environment, they're also economically valuable for growers in the state. Very valuable. An analysis done in recent years found the tree earned nursery owners millions of dollars each year.
That's why they didn't make it on the terrestrial plant rule.
Research indicates that the landscaping trade is responsible for just over 80% of invasive species growing in Indiana.
And the Bradford pear, with its beautiful springtime white flowers and brilliant fall foliage, is a favorite among Hoosiers.
Those flowers are part of the problem. They bring with them small fruits, which birds eat, and fly and deposit the seeds elsewhere. Because Bradford pear trees bloom so much earlier in the year than native trees, they drop their seeds when there aren't native competitors. Then, they take over.
"I've seen entire meadows transformed into a monoculture of Bradford pears," said Ethan Olson, director of native landscapes at local nonprofit Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
In the long term this shakes up Indiana's ecosystems, said Heather Reynolds, a biology professor at Indiana University and member of the Indiana Invasive Species Council. When the tree chokes out native plants, those plants can't support native insects and pollinators. Those insects, in turn, can't support the wildlife that eats them, and the impacts snowball from there.
"Loss of biodiversity has implications all the way up the food chain," Reynolds said. "If you plant a monoculture of Bradford pear, you're ultimately destroying the habitat and food sources for the bird species you may love."