David A. Marquis
Black cherry (Prunus serotina), the largest of the native cherries and the only one of commercial value, is found throughout the Eastern United States. It is also known as wild black cherry, rum cherry, and mountain black cherry. Large, high-quality trees suited for furniture wood or veneer are found in large numbers in a more restricted commercial range on the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia (36,44). Smaller quantities of high-quality trees grow in scattered locations along the southern Appalachian Mountains and the upland areas of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Elsewhere, black cherry is often a small, poorly formed tree of relatively low commercial value, but important to wildlife for its fruit.
General: Rose Family (Rosaceae). Native trees are 38 m tall; bark of larger trunks fissured and scaly, but thin. Leaves: alternate, simple, ovate to oblong-lanceolate, 5-15 cm long, 2.5-5 cm wide, with finely toothed margins, glabrous or commonly with reddish hairs along the midrib beneath, near the base. Inflorescence is an oblong-cylindric raceme that is 10-15 cm long at the end of leafy twigs of the season, with numerous flowers; calyx tube of short lobes, petals 5, white. Fruits: berry-like, about 8-10 mm in diameter, obovoid, black when ripe; seed a single, black, ovoid stone 6-8 mm long. The common name is from the black color of the ripe fruits.
Variation within the species: The species has a number of geographic variants:
Var. eximia (Small) Little - Edwards Plateau of central TX
Var. rufula (Woot. & Standl.) McVaugh - TX, NM, AZ
Var. serotina - widespread in the eastern US
Var. virens (Woot. & Standl.) McVaugh - TX, NM, AZ
Var. salicifolia Koehne - Mexico and Guatemala
Var. serotina may reach 38 meters tall in the eastern US, but southwestern US varieties typically are smaller; southwestern black cherry (var. rufula) seldom grows taller than 9 m, and escarpment black cherry (var. exima) no taller than 15 meters. The leaves of var. serotina are thin compared to those of the other varieties. Domesticants and wild populations of P. serotina in Mexico and Central America, called "capulin" (var. salicifolia), have larger (2 cm) fruits, apparently through selection by native peoples. Plants previously recognized as P. serotina var. alabamensis (Mohr) Little have been taxonomically returned to species rank, as P. alabamensis Mohr.
Wild black cherry, mountain black cherry, rum cherry
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
to eastern Texas, and eastward to the Atlantic from central Florida to
Nova Scotia . Outlying populations grow in central Texas; in the
mountains of western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona; and south in Mexico
to Guatemala . The varieties are distributed as follows :
typical black cherry (var. serotina) - from Nova Scotia west to
central Minnesota, south to east Texas, and east to central Florida.
Alabama black cherry (var. alabamensis) - from eastern Georgia west to
northeastern Alabama, and south to northwestern Florida. Also local
in South Carolina and North Carolina.
escarpment cherry (var. exima) - found in the Edwards Plateau region
of central Texas.
southwestern black cherry (var. rufula) - in the mountains from
western Texas to central Arizona, and south to northern and central
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
7 Lower Basin and Range
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
Occurrence in North America
KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO
NE NH NJ NM NY NC OH OK PA RI
SC TN TX VT VA WV WI NB NS ON
-The native range of black cherry.
Black cherry is a shade-intolerant species that primarily occurs in successional vegetation or in forest openings as well as in old fields and along fencerows. It usually occurs as scattered individuals in various types of mesic woods and second-growth hardwood forests; at elevations of 0-1520 meters. Black cherry in the southwestern US is confined to canyons, valleys, and rich bottomlands. Flowering: May-July (March-April in the Southwest); fruiting: June-October.
Widespread in eastern North America, from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec, Canada, Minnesota and North Dakota, southward to Florida and east Texas, with outlying populations in central Texas, west Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and south in Mexico to Guatemala. Known to be highly invasive in forests of Holland and other countries of Western Europe; also naturalized in northern South America. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
tree. In the forest it typically has a large, straight, branch-free
bole with a narrow crown, but in openings it tends to have a shorter
trunk and a broad, irregular crown . In the East, typical black
cherry (var. serotina) may reach 125 feet (38 m) in height and 4 feet
(1.2 m) or more in diameter . Southwestern varieties are typically
much smaller. Southwestern black cherry (var. rufula) seldom grows
taller than 30 feet (9 m), and escarpment black cherry (var. exima)
taller than 50 feet (15 m) .
Black cherry has a shallow and spreading root system. Most roots occur
within 24 inches (61 cm) of the soil surface . Bark on young stems
is thin, smooth, and reddish-brown to nearly black. On large trunks the
bark is fissured and scaly but remains thin [20,23]. Black cherry has
simple, 2- to 6-inch-long, thick and leathery leaves . White
flowers occur in 3- to 4-inch-long, oblong-cylindric racemes at the end
of leafy twigs of the season . The fruit is a nearly globular,
one-seeded, purplish-black to black, 0.5 inch (1.2 cm) diameter drupe
[11,20]. The seed is an oblong-ovoid stone about 0.33 inch (0.75 cm)
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Black cherry occurs in numerous mesic woods and second-growth hardwood
forests in the eastern United States and Canada. It is also common in
old fields and along fence rows. It grows on a variety of soil types,
textures, and drainages but is most abundant on mesic sites . Black
cherry attains its greatest abundance on the Allegheny Plateau, where it
is found on nearly all soil types. In this region it grows somewhat
better on middle and lower slopes of eastern and northern exposures than
on the dry soils associated with south- or west-facing slopes .
This mesophytic tendency becomes even more pronounced farther south. In
the southern Appalachians, black cherry generally grows as scattered
individuals with other mesophytic hardwoods and occasionally forms pure
stands at high elevations . In the Great Smoky Mountains, black
cherry is best represented in cove forests below 5,500 feet (1,676 m)
. In southern Wisconsin, understory black cherry is a conspicuous
component of xeric oak forests and savannas .
In the southwestern United States, black cherry is confined to canyons,
valleys, and rich bottomlands [5,57].
Key Plant Community Associations
Black cherry occurs as scattered individuals in numerous forest types of
the East (see SAF cover types listed). It is codominant in only one
cover type, the black cherry-maple type (SAF 28) found in the Allegheny
Plateau and Allegheny Mountain sections of New York, Pennsylvania,
Maryland, and West Virginia . In this type, black cherry is a
primary component along with red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (A.
saccharum), and white ash (Fraxinus americana). Other common associates
include American beech (Fagus grandifolia), eastern hemlock (Tsuga
canadensis), sweet birch (Betula lenta), yellow birch (B.
alleghaniensis), yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), cucumbertree
(Magnolia acuminata), oak (Quercus spp.), and hickory (Carya spp.)
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: hardwood
14 Northern pin oak
17 Pin cherry
19 Gray birch - red maple
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine - hemlock
23 Eastern hemlock
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
40 Post oak - blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
43 Bear oak
44 Chestnut oak
45 Pitch pine
51 White pine - chestnut oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
55 Northern red oak
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
64 Sassafras - persimmon
66 Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper
70 Longleaf pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
85 Slash pine - hardwood
108 Red maple
110 Black oak
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K062 Mesquite - live oak savanna
K081 Oak savanna
K084 Cross Timbers
K086 Juniper - oak savanna
K087 Mesquite - oak savanna
K089 Black Belt
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalacian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K115 Sand pine scrub
K116 Subtropical pine forest
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES32 Texas savanna
Soils and Topography
On the Allegheny Plateau, black cherry develops well on all soils except for the very wettest and very driest (36). There seem to be no major changes in site quality between soils developed from glacial till and those of residual origin. Black cherry tolerates a wide range of soil drainage. It grows about the same on well-drained sites as on somewhat poorly drained sites but shows rapid loss in productivity with increasingly wetter conditions (6,12). The dry soils of ridge tops and of south- and west-facing slopes are less favorable for black cherry than the moist soils of middle and lower slopes on north and east exposures (15,36) though these effects are much less pronounced on the Allegheny Plateau than in the steep topography of the Appalachians.
Though great diversity exists, most of the forest soils important to black cherry are very strongly acid, relatively infertile, and have high, coarse fragment content throughout their profile. Kaolinite is the dominant clay mineral and is responsible for relatively low cation exchange properties (14). The bulk of the upland soils have textures that range from sandy loam to silty clay loam, and many soils have developed fragipans that impede drainage and restrict root growth (6,12,59). The large majority of upland soils are classified as Inceptisols or Ultisols according to present taxonomy, but Alfisols are also frequently present in colluvial landscape positions (59,75).
Further southward throughout the Appalachian Highlands, black cherry generally grows on good to excellent sites as a scattered individual in association with other mesophytic hardwoods (36,74), and sometimes in nearly pure stands at high elevations on soils with impeded drainage. In the Lake States, black cherry prefers deep, well-drained soils and is adversely affected by increasingly poorer soil drainage (9).
Seeds may be produced on trees as young as 10 years, but maximum production in natural stands occurs on trees 30-100 years old. Some seed is produced yearly, with good crops produced at 1-5-year intervals. High proportions of the seeds are viable. Because of long-distance seed dispersal by birds and mammals, seedlings are often abundant in sites with no or few reproductive black cherry trees. Seeds that pass through the digestive tracts of passerine birds also have higher germination rates than undigested seeds.
Seeds from one crop germinate over a period of 3 years –– this delayed germination allows large numbers of seeds to be banked in the forest floor. After cold stratification, seeds germinate in loose soil and forest litter; germination is higher in litter than in mineral soil. Seedlings typically grow to a height of 5-10 cm within 30 days after germination.
Black cherry also reproduces by stump sprouts following cutting or fire, and sprouting frequency remains high for trees up to about 60 years of age.
Black cherry rarely occurs in the canopy of late successional deciduous forests but buried seeds are present and an abundance of small seedlings is common in the understory. These grow slowly in dense shade, sometimes reaching 15 cm in height in 3-4 years, but any canopy opening will release this bank of suppressed plants, which grow rapidly to overtop shade-tolerant associates. Black cherry saplings in the understory may repeatedly die back to the stem base and resprout and can persist for 40-60 years by maintaining a small above-ground size until released. Because of its abundant soil-stored seeds and sprouting ability, black cherry may dominate secondary succession following logging, fire, or wind-throw. Trees have been reported to grow to more than 250 years, although mortality increases rapidly after 80-100 years.
Flower-Visiting Insects of Wild Black Cherry in Illinois
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen, other insects suck nectar; in addition to the flower visitors, Prunus serotina has insects that visit its extra-floral nectaries, as described below; some observations are from Krombein et al. as indicated below, otherwise they are from Robertson)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn cp fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus impatiens sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn fq; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina calcarata sn; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia speciosa sn; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada illinoiensis sn
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn fq, Augochlorella aurata sn cp fq, Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn, Halictus confusus sn cp, Halictus rubicunda sn cp fq, Lasioglossum coriaceus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum cressonii sn cp, Lasioglossum imitatus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn cp, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp fq, Lasioglossum zephyrus sn cp; Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes inaequalis sn; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena ceanothi (Kr), Andrena crataegi sn, Andrena cressonii sn cp fq, Andrena erythrogaster sn (Rb, Kr), Andrena forbesii sn cp (Rb, Kr), Andrena hippotes sn (Rb, Kr), Andrena imitatrix imitatrix sn cp fq (Rb, Kr), Andrena miserabilis bipunctata sn cp fq, Andrena nigrae (Kr), Andrena nuda sn cp (Rb, Kr), Andrena pruni sn cp fq, Andrena rugosa sn, Andrena sayi sn cp, Andrena tridens (Kr), Andrena virginiana (Kr)
Vespidae: Polistes fuscata
Tenthredinidae: Dolerus sericeus
Scatopsidae: Scatopse notata fq; Simuliidae: Cnephia pecuarum; Stratiomyidae: Stratiomys normula; Syrphidae: Brachyopa vacua, Eristalinus aeneus fq, Eristalis dimidiatus, Mallota bautias, Myolepta strigilata, Orthonevra nitida, Orthonevra pictipennis, Sphaerophoria contiqua, Sphegina rufiventris, Syritta pipiens, Syrphus ribesii, Trichopsomyia apisaon; Empididae: Rhamphomyia sordida; Conopidae: Myopa vesiculosa; Tachinidae: Gonia capitata, Siphona geniculata; Sarcophagidae: Ravinia anxia; Calliphoridae: Calliphora vicina, Cynomya cadaverina, Lucilia illustris, Lucilia sericata, Phormia regina; Muscidae: Neomyia cornicina; Anthomyiidae: Delia platura; Fanniidae: Fannia manicata; Scathophagidae: Scathophaga furcata
Nymphalidae: Danaus plexippus, Vanessa virginiensis
Cerambycidae: Molorchus bimaculatus
Halictidae (Halictinae): Lasioglossum illinoensis, Lasioglossum imitatus, Lasioglossum versatus; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena erythrogaster, Andrena illinoiensis, Andrena miserabilis bipunctata
Formicidae: Crematogaster lineolata, Formica fusca
Syrphidae: Blera umbratilis; Calliphoridae: Cynomya cadaverina
clustered conidioma of Foveostrama coelomycetous anamorph of Dermea cerasi is saprobic on twig of Prunus serotina
Associated Forest Cover
Black cherry is also found as a minor component of pine and hemlock types and other northern hardwood types in the Northern Forest Region, as well as upland oaks and other central types in the -central Forest Region. Black cherry is mentioned as a component of the following types:
14 Northern Pin Oak
17 Pin Cherry
119 Gray Birch-Red Maple
20 White Pine-Northern Red Oak- Red Maple
21 Eastern White Pine
22 White Pine-Hemlock
23 Eastern Hemlock
25 Sugar Maple-Beech-Yellow Birch
28 Black Cherry-Maple
31 Red Spruce-Sugar Maple-Beech
43 Bear Oak
44 Chestnut Oak
51 White Pine-Chestnut Oak
52 White Oak-Black Oak-Northern Red Oak
55 Northern Red Oak
59 Yellow-Poplar-White Oak-Northern Red Oak
60 Beech-Sugar Maple
108 Red Maple
110 Black Oak
Other tree associates of black cherry in addition to those mentioned in the type names include white ash (Fraxinus americana), cucumbertree (Magnolia acuminata), sweet birch (Betula lenta), American basswood (Tilia americana), butternut (Juglans cinerea), scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), quaking and bigtooth aspens (Populus tremuloides and P. grandidentata), American elm and rock elm (Ulmus americana and U. thomasii). Important small tree associates include striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum), pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya uirginiana), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), and downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea). Shrubs common in forest stands that contain significant amounts of black cherry include witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium), and various other viburnums. Hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula), New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), shorthusk grass (Bracheylytrum erectum), violets (Viola spp.), wood sorrel (Oxalis spp.), asters (Aster spp.), and club mosses (Lycopodium spp.) are also prevalent in the understory in many areas.
Diseases and Parasites
Attacks by numerous species of insects cause gum defects in black cherry, resulting in reduced timber quality. Gum spots in the wood are often associated with the Agromyzid cambium miner (Phytobia pruni), the peach bark beetle (Phloeotribus liminaris), and by the lesser peachtree borer (Synathedon pictipes) (35,40,66). A wide variety of insects can cause injury to terminal shoots of black cherry seedlings and saplings, resulting in stem deformity. Archips spp. and Contarinia cerasiserotinae are among the more important (64).
The most common disease is cherry leaf spot caused by Coccomyces lutescens (36). Large numbers of black cherry seedlings are sometimes weakened or killed by this disease. Repeated attacks reduce the vigor of larger trees. Most other foliage diseases cause little damage.
Black knot, a native disease caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa is common on black cherry (27). It causes elongated rough black swellings several times the diameter of the normal stem. Small twigs may be killed within a year after infection. Large cankerous swellings, a foot or more in length, may occur on the trunks of larger trees, and where several such lesions are scattered along the bole, the tree is worthless for lumber. Cytospora leucostoma is the cause of a canker disease responsible for widespread branch mortality of black cherry in Pennsylvania (26). Common infection courts are decaying fruit racemes and bark fissures caused by excessive gum production following passage of the larvae of Phytobia pruni, a cambium mining insect.
Several basidiomycete fungi that cause root and butt rot of living black cherry trees include Armillaria mellea, Coniophora cerebella, Polyporus berkeleyi, and Tyromyces spraguei. Many other fungi cause decay of the main trunk; these include Fomes fomentarius, Fomitopsis pinicola, Poria prunicola. P. mutans, and Laetiporus sulphureus (29,36). Damage caused by glaze storms exposes black cherry to infection by top-rot fungi (16).
Porcupines girdle and kill black cherry trees and also consume bark, thereby providing entry points for fungi. Meadow mice and meadow voles girdle the stem near the ground (37). Such damage where grass or other herbaceous cover provides suitable habitat for the mice is probably one of the major causes of planting failure in unregenerated clearcuts and old fields.
White-tailed deer, rabbits, and hare feed on black cherry seedlings (36). In parts of Pennsylvania, deer browsing is the most serious problem of black cherry. Reproduction sometimes is completely eliminated by browsing, and most regeneration cuts are affected by reduced stocking, delays in establishment, and shifts in species composition toward less palatable beech and striped maple (50,57). Damage is dramatic after clearcutting, but damage to advance reproduction also is important.
In areas of high deer population such as Pennsylvania, successful reproduction can be assured only where advance seedlings are so abundant that deer cannot eat all of them in the few years required for them to grow out of reach (55,57). Black cherry fares somewhat better than associated species such as sugar maple, red maple, white ash, and yellowpoplar, which are preferred deer browse. Where successful regeneration develops after clearcutting in this region, it is often nearly pure black cherry. Guidelines and techniques for regenerating stands with black cherry have been developed (56,58).
Cherry is somewhat more vulnerable to storm damage than many of its associates because it often towers above the general canopy in mixed stands. Sapling and pole-sized trees are frequently bent by glaze or wet snow, causing loss of the leader and severe crooks that make them unsuitable for sawtimber. Cherry trees make remarkable recovery after breakage, however, with little loss of diameter growth. Decay spreads more slowly in cherry than in some of the associated species, so long-term effects are less severe than they seem to be at first (36,65).
Cherry trees of all sizes are highly susceptible to fire injury. Even large trees are killed by moderate to severe fire, but most resprout unless the fire was unusually hot. Black cherry is intolerant of flooding. Of 39 species studied in a Tennessee flood test, black cherry was the most sensitive to high water (28).
Certain herbaceous plants interfere with establishment of black cherry regeneration through an allelopathic mechanism. Flat top aster (Aster umbellatus), rough stemmed goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), brackenfern (Pteridium aquilinum) and wild oatgrass (Danthonia compressa) (30) release chemicals from their leaves or roots that sometimes interfere with black cherry growth and development. Woodland fern and grasses may also interfere with black cherry regeneration, through a complex of mechanisms that involve both light and nitrogen effects (31,34). Black cherry may interfere with regeneration of other tree species, such as red maple (32), but this has not been investigated thoroughly.
Fire Management Considerations
following timber harvest is not necessary for black cherry regeneration
Black cherry sprouts prolifically following fire. However, this
depletes its underground carbohydrate reserves and leaves it in a
weakened condition. A second fire within a year or two would probably
kill any seedlings and saplings that survived the first fire by
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
In 4- to 6-year-old northern Alabama clearcuts, black cherry saplings
and coppice sprouts regenerated quickly following top-killing broadcast
burns. Three to four years after burning, the density and frequency of
stems greater than 4.5 feet (1.4 m) tall was about equal to preburn
In North Carolina, 1-inch-diameter (2.5 cm) black cherry that were
top-killed following a winter prescribed fire quickly sprouted,
producing an average of eight sprouts per stump. Black cherry sprouts
grew faster than all other hardwood sprouts on the study area. The
average height of the tallest black cherry sprout on each stump was 5.8
feet (1.7 m) 1 year after burning .
In oldfields in New York, black cherry seedlings top-killed by fire
averaged 4.4 sprouts per stump .
In south-central Wisconsin oak savanna, black cherry seedlings and
saplings top-killed by fire had 1 to 16 sprouts per stump. In general,
black cherry's sprouting response was vigorous, producing larger and
more numerous sprouts than than black, white, or bur oak .
The Research Project Summary Effects of surface fires in a mixed red and
eastern white pine stand in Michigan and the Research Paper by Bowles and
others 2007 provide information on prescribed fire and postfire response of
several plant species, including black cherry, that was not available when
this species review was written.
Plant Response to Fire
fire. It is generally considered a prolific sprouter. Each top-killed
individual produces several sprouts that grow rapidly.
Broad-scale Impacts of Fire
The effects of fire on black cherry vary depending on fire severity and
stem diameter. A large percentage of seedlings and saplings are
generally top-killed by low-severity fires, but larger individuals may
be unaffected. As fire severity increases, the percentage of tree-sized
individuals killed also increases.
An April prescribed fire in a south-central Wisconsin bur and white oak
savanna killed only 2 out of 141 black cherry seedlings and saplings.
The others either resprouted, suffered only partial scarring, or were
unharmed. The percentage of foliage killed was inversely related to
stem diameter. Nearly all seedlings were top-killed, but only a small
percentage of plants 4 inches (10 cm) d.b.h. were affected. In general,
black cherry was more susceptible to fire damage than either species of
Low-intensity prescribed surface fires (mean flame length > 1 foot [0.3
m], mean rate of spread of 10.8 feet [3.3 m] per minute) in a
30-year-old mixed hardwood stand in central Wisconsin top-killed 67 to
100 percent of saplings less than 4 inches (10 cm) d.b.h., but did not
top-kill any black cherry greater than 4 inches (10 cm) d.b.h. One year
after the fire, seedling density was reduced by about 35 percent, from
11,400 to 7,500 per acre (28,250-18,500/ha) .
Following a wildfire in south-central New York, 12 percent of 4 inch (10
cm) d.b.h. and smaller black cherry in old fields were killed. The rest
were top-killed and later sprouted .
In longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) stands in Alabama, two summer
prescribed burns spaced 2 years apart killed small black cherry less
than 1 inch d.b.h. These plants sprouted after the first fire but not
after the second .
Following an early spring, low-intensity prescribed fire in a young
black oak (Quercus velutina)-black cherry forest in Connecticut, about
15 percent of 1- to 4-inch-diameter black cherry were top-killed. No
4- to 6-inch-diameter trees were affected .
Immediate Effect of Fire
Black cherry's thin bark (about 0.2 inches [5 cm]) has poor insulating
properties . When the boles of black cherry trees were heated with
a propane torch, the cambium reached lethal temperatures faster than any
other eastern hardwood tested. The thin bark makes trees highly
susceptible to girdling, and black cherry is usually killed or
top-killed by fires of moderate severity. Trees larger than about 4 to
6 inches in diameter, however, may survive light surface fires
survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex
Black cherry is very susceptible to fire injury but typically resprouts
from the root crown or stump .
Considerable amounts of black cherry seed are stored in the soil .
The seed's stony endocarp and the soil provide some insulation from fire
. Although not documented, some soil-stored seeds presumably
survive at least light fires and contribute to postfire seedling
Birds and animals may distribute some seed into burned areas. However,
as a means of postfire recovery, this is probably of minor importance.
More info for the terms: cover, succession
Black cherry is a seral, shade-intolerant, gap-phase species . It
rarely occurs in the canopy of late successional deciduous forests but
buried seed and seedlings are often present in the understory.
Seedlings may survive in the understory for about 5 years but then die
or die-back to the stem base unless released [5,39]. Seedlings that die
are soon replaced because of the abundance of buried seed. Any
disturbance which opens the canopy will release this bank of suppressed
seedlings. Once released, young black cherry grow rapidly and quickly
fill the gap, overtopping shade-tolerant associates.
Because of its abundant soil-stored seeds and prolific sprouting
ability, black cherry dominates secondary succession following logging,
fire, or wind-throw . The Society of American Forester's black
cherry - maple cover type (SAF 28) is a second-growth or intermediate
successional stage created by widespread clearcutting at the turn of the
century. This type is successional to beech-hemlock-sugar maple .
In bur and white oak (Quercus macrocarpa, Q. alba) woodlands in southern
Wisconsin, black cherry accounts for about one-half of the total number
of seedlings and saplings but is largely absent from the overstory.
Under the shade of the oaks, black cherry saplings repeatedly die-back
to the stem base and resprout. Black cherry can persist, by maintaining
a small aboveground size, for 40 to 60 years until released [4,5].
Long-distance seed dispersal by birds is important in the establishment
of black cherry along fence rows and into forest openings, old fields,
and pine plantations [2,51].
Seed production: In natural stands maximum seed production occurs on
30- to 100-year-old trees. Some seed is produced almost every year,
with good crops produced at 1- to 5-year intervals . In
Pennsylvania, large seed crops occur about every other year . There
are about 4,800 cleaned seeds per pound (10,560/kg) .
Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by gravity, birds, and mammals. The
fruits fall shortly after ripening in late summer or fall. Seeds not
dispersed by animals generally land near the parent tree. Thus the
abundance of seedlings in the understory is related to the number and
distribution of seed trees in the overstory. Because of animal
dispersal, however, black cherry seedlings are often abundant in stands
with no or few seed-producing black cherry trees [1,15,29,41,51].
Germination tests show that black cherry seeds that pass through the
digestive tracts of passerine birds successfully germinate after proper
cold stratification, and have higher germination rates than undigested
Seed quality: Usually over 90 percent of seeds are sound [8,59].
Dormancy and germination: Black cherry seeds require cold
stratification to germinate. This occurs as seeds overwinter on the
forest floor . Black cherry exhibits delayed germination: seeds
from one crop germinate over a period of 3 years. Of seed artificially
sown and buried 1 inch below the soil surface in a northern hardwood
stand in Pennsylvania, 22, 42, and 4 percent germinated the first,
second, and third year, respectively . In another germination
study, 10, 50, and 25 percent germinated 1, 2, and 3 years after burial,
respectively . Delayed germination allows black cherry to bank
large amounts of seed in the forest floor. There are typically hundreds
of thousands of black cherry seeds stored in the soil of black
cherry-maple stands in Pennsylvania in any given year . Each spring
about one-half of these germinate.
Black cherry's moisture and light requirements for germination are not
as exacting as those of its associates . However, moist seedbeds
ensure good germination. Seeds germinate in loose soil and forest
litter, but germination is somewhat higher in litter than mineral soil
Seedling growth and survival: Seedlings typically grow to a height of 2
to 4 inches (5-10 cm) 30 days after germination. In dense shade, they
grow very slowly, sometimes reaching 6 inches (15 cm) in height in 3 or
4 years, but die thereafter unless released . An understory of tiny
black cherry seedlings is common in numerous mixed deciduous forests.
If the canopy is opened due to windthrow, harvest, or other disturbance,
the seedlings survive well and grow rapidly in full sunlight .
Vegetative reproduction: Black cherry sprouts vigorously from the stump
following cutting or fire [32,55]. Sprouting frequency of stumps
remains high, probably over 90 percent, for trees up to about 60 years
of age .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Reaction to Competition
In sapling and larger sizes, black cherry trees are considered very intolerant of competition. Cherry trees are found primarily in the dominant and codominant crown classes. Those individuals that drop to lower crown levels decline in growth and soon die. Thus, diameter distribution of black cherry in even-aged stands follows the bell-shaped curve typical of intolerant species (51).
Black cherry dominants and codominants respond to thinning with slight to moderate increases in diameter growth, especially at ages up to 50 or 60 years (17,36,54). But thinning does not generally produce a response in trees that have been suppressed. Even early thinnings and cleanings intended to elevate intermediate or suppressed cherry to codominate crown positions generally have failed (13,73).
Even-aged silviculture best satisfies the silvical requirements for black cherry regeneration, using either clearcutting where advance seedlings are already present or shelterwood cutting to develop them where they are absent (56,58). Advance seedlings and seed stored in the forest floor generally make retention of seed trees unnecessary. Uneven-aged silviculture, especially single-tree selection, tends to gradually eliminate cherry from the stands, because cherry does Dot move up into the dominant canopy without at least moderate levels of sunlight (46) . Group selection cutting might maintain small percentages of cherry in unevenaged stands, though this has never been demonstrated clearly.
Life History and Behavior
Black cherry flowers in the spring when the leaves are one-half to fully
expanded. Fruits develop over the spring and summer and ripen by early
to late summer depending on latitude and climate. The fruits fall soon
after ripening. Fruit maturation may vary by as much as 3 weeks on
trees in the same stand . Generalized timing of phenological events
vary regionally as follows [8,39,46,50]:
Northeast Southeast Southwest
Flowering late May-early June March-April
Fruits Ripe late Aug-September June June-August
Seedfall late Aug-October June-early July
Sprouts of cherry tend to have poorer form than comparable seedlings but grow faster than seedlings during the first 20 to 30 years. Although trees of seedling or seedling-sprout origin are preferred for timber production, usually several stems of each sprout clump are capable of growing into high quality sawtimber (41,78). The incidence of butt rot from the parent stump is not as great in black cherry sprouts from stumps as large as 25 cm (10 in) in diameter or from stumps that have been overgrown by their sprouts by 35 years of age (8). Thus, sprouts of good form originating low on the stump are not discriminated against in silvicultural operations.
At the time of germination, the endosperm swells and splits the stone into two halves. Contrary to some beliefs, germination does not depend upon splitting of the seed coat by frost, or partial decomposition of the bony seed coat by soil organisms, or being passed through the digestive tract of birds. Germination is hypogeous; that is, the cotyledons remain below the soil surface (22).
Seedbed requirements for germination are not rigid. Mineral soil is not required. In fact, germination is somewhat less on mineral soil than on undisturbed humus or leaf litter (37,43). Few seeds germinate in areas that have had the organic horizons stripped off or that are compacted by logging machinery. A moist seedbed is required for good germination, and burial of seeds to a depth of several inches is beneficial, apparently because it provides a stable moisture supply. Shade also improves germination by helping to maintain stable moisture. Germination is best beneath a canopy that represents 60 percent stocking or more, and germination decreases at lower canopy densities and is poorest in full sunlight (43,47).
Under a forest canopy, myriads of cherry seedlings start in the vicinity of seed trees practically every year. Many of these survive 3 or 4 years even under the dense shade of an uncut stand, but few grow to be more than 12 or 15 cm (5 or 6 in) tall or survive more than 5 years under that low level of light. Nevertheless, those that die are quickly replaced by newly germinated seedlings, so a fairly dense understory of small black cherry seedlings is often present under seed-producing stands of black cherry. Where canopy density has been reduced by partial cutting, cherry advance seedlings survive longer and grow taller in response to the higher level of light (47,49). Overstory stocking levels of 50 to 70 percent provide optimum conditions for establishment of black cherry advance reproduction (48). Good germination and high survival provide for maximum seedling numbers at this level, and seedling heights of 0.3 to 0.6 in (I to 2 ft) are achieved in about 5 years. Best height growth of established seedlings, however, occurs in full sunlight (43,49).
Black cherry seedlings reach a height of 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) within 30 days of germination. Under dense shade they do not grow much more, averaging less than 3 cm (1 in) of growth per year until they die because of lack of light. In the open, cherry stems have the potential to grow faster than most associated species. Juvenile height growth often averages 46 cm (18 in), and a few individuals may grow 91 cm (36 in) or more per year. With fertilization, annual terminal growth of 1.2 to 1.8 m (4 to 6 ft) is common; growth of up to 2.4 in (8 ft) per year has been observed on some trees (1).
Seedlings typically develop a taproot with numerous laterals during the first few years. Under adequate light, the roots penetrate 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) the first year in most soils. Well before black cherry reaches sapling size, a spreading form of root system develops in which a distinct taproot is no longer evident (36).
Black cherry advance seedlings more than 15 cm (6 in) tall and at least 2 years old survive well and grow rapidly after exposure to full sunlight. Smaller seedlings survive in somewhat lower numbers, but they can be important sources of regeneration too. Smaller seedlings survive better if they grow under a partially cut canopy before release rather than under an uncut canopy (53).
A two-cut shelterwood sequence provides the best conditions for the establishment and subsequent growth of black cherry regeneration. The seed cut should reduce the overstory to 50 or 60 percent relative density to provide for establishment of a large number of seedlings of modest size. A removal cut 5 to 10 years later releases the established seedlings for rapid growth and development (49). In some stands, adequate numbers of advance seedlings are present naturally, and the overstory removal or clearcut can be made without an earlier seed cut (25). The presence of advance seedlings is critical, however, and clearcutting may not regenerate cherry in stands where advance seedlings are lacking, especially where deer browsing, interfering plants, or other factors limit reproduction (55,56).
Some black cherry seedlings do become established after removal cutting, and these supplement those that originated as advance seedlings. But direct exposure to sunlight is not conducive to best germination. For this reason, small clearcut patches or strips often provide better regeneration than large block clearcuts (36), except where advance seedlings are adequate by themselves.
In stands where all species start at the same time, cherry quickly overtops tolerant species (51). Under partial shade, however, height growth of cherry is often less than that of its tolerant associates (48), and cherry is far less likely to grow into the main canopy through small gaps created by removal of a single tree. As a result, single-tree selection cutting generally discriminates against black cherry reproduction (46).
Seed Production and Dissemination
In most stands of seed-bearing age, some seeds are produced nearly every year. Good crops occur at intervals of 1 to 5 years across the geographic range of black cherry; on the Alleghany Plateau of northwestern Pennsylvania, good crops have occurred about every other year (7,23). On the Allegheny Plateau, fruit ripening and seedfall occur between August 15 and mid-September; the time is earlier in the southern range and later in the northern range. In the southeastern United States, fruits ripen in late June and seedfall is complete by early July. There may be as much as 3 weeks difference in fruit maturation dates between trees growing in the same stand.
Cleaned black cherry seeds range from 6,800 to 17,900/kg (3,100 to 8,100/lb), averaging 10,600/kg (4,800/lb). Seed weight varies geographically, with larger seeds in the northwest range and smaller seeds in the south and east.
The bulk of the seed crop falls to the ground in the vicinity of the parent tree. Circles of advance seedlings beneath scattered cherry trees and an absence of seedlings elsewhere are common occurrences in closed stands. As a result, the amount of black cherry advance reproduction is highly dependent on the number and distribution of seed-producing trees in the overstory (7). Songbirds distribute modest quantities of seeds in their droppings or by regurgitation. Omnivorous mammals, such as foxes and bears, also distribute seeds in their droppings. Bird and mammal distribution often accounts for a surprising abundance of advance cherry seedlings in stands lacking cherry seed producers.
Flowering and Fruiting
Black cherry flowers are white, solitary, and borne in umbel-like racemes. The flowers are perfect and are insect pollinated (22). Several species of flies, a flower beetle, and several species of bees, including the honey bee, work the blossoms for pollen and nectar. Self-pollination has been observed, but none of the self-pollinated flowers developed into viable seeds (21).
Late spring frosts may damage the flowers before they open, and frosts occasionally cause large numbers of newly set fruits to fall from the pedicels without maturing (36). Premature dropping of green fruits is also a problem in some years. The fruit is a one-seeded drupe about 10 min (0.38 in) in diameter with a bony stone or pit. The fruit is black when ripe.
Growth and Yield
Black cherry maintains its growth advantage over associated species for 60 to 80 years, so the proportion of the basal area or volume in cherry tends to increase over time in mixed stands. By age 60, codominant red maple diameter growth is often as good as or better than that of codominant cherry. Beyond age 80 to 100 years, diameter growth slows, mortality of cherry increases rapidly, and the importance of the species in the stand declines. However, few stands of such age are available to judge the rapidity with which cherry disintegrates at advanced ages. Site index curves for black cherry on the Alleghany Plateau have recently been developed (2).
Average annual diameter growth of black cherry dominants and codominants might be 0.65 cm (0.25 in) between ages 10 and 40 years, 0.5 cm (0.20 in) between ages 40 and 70 years, and 0.4 cm (0.15 in) between ages 70 and 100 years.
Growing space requirements for black cherry are considerably lower than for the associated species (except for hemlock) (71). Thus, stands containing a high percentage of black cherry carry more basal area and more volume per acre than stands with a low percentage of cherry. For example, full stocking for stands with a quadratic average stand diameter of 25 cm (10 in) is 31.7 m² of basal area per hectare (138 ft²/acre) if there is 20 percent cherry, and 42.2 m²2 (184 ft² if there is 80 percent cherry. Maximum stocking also varies with stand diameter. Stocking is 31.7, 37.0, and 40.4 m²/ha (138, 161, and 176 ft²/acre) at average quadratic stand diameters of 15, 25, and 35 cm (6, 10, and 14 in), respectively, for stands with 50 percent cherry (67,72).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Prunus serotina
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Prunus serotina
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.
Pests and potential problems
The eastern tent caterpillar and the cherry scallop shell moth defoliate black cherry and can cause growth loss and mortality. The fungal disease “black knot” is common on black cherry – it causes elongated, rough, black swellings on the twigs, branches, and trunk.
Silviculture: Black cherry regenerates best under even-aged
silvicultural treatments [39,40,41]. Clearcutting is generally used
where advanced regeneration is abundant. Shelterwood cuts are used
where seedlings are scarce and provide good conditions for establishment
from soil-stored seed. Soil scarification following cutting is not
Animal damage: Following timber harvest, black cherry seedlings
generally suffer less browsing damage by deer than associated hardwoods
because they are less palatable . However, black cherry stocking
can be reduced or completely eliminated where deer populations are high.
In some instances, successful regeneration can only be assured where
advanced seedlings are so abundant that deer cannot eat them all .
Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer applications 2 years after harvest
cause black cherry seedlings to quickly outgrow the reach of deer .
Competing vegetation: Competing herbaceous vegetation, such as bracken
fern (Pteridium aquilinum), hayscented fern (Dennstaedtia
punctilobula), whorled wood aster (Aster accuminatus), flat-topped aster
(A. umbellatus), goldenrod (Solidigo rugosa), and wild oatgrass
(Danthonia compressa), are often favored by shelterwood cuts. These
species inhibit black cherry seed germination and seedling growth
through allelopathy [16,27]. They are effectively controlled with
herbicides which also kill black cherry seedlings. However, black
cherry seed in the soil is not affected by herbicide treatments, and new
seedlings establish after spraying .
Control: Black cherry under 3 feet (0.9 m) tall is susceptible to
2,4,5-T, but slightly more tolerant of 2,4-D. Basal bark treatments
with these herbicides kill trees over 10 feet (3 m) tall . Black
cherry is killed by soil treatments of Bromacil, Fenuron, Karbutilate,
and Picloram .
Insects and Diseases: The most serious defoliating insects affecting
black cherry are the eastern tent caterpillar and the cherry scallop
shell moth. Infestations of these insects are sporadically heavy and
cause growth loss and occasional mortality. Numerous borers and beetles
cause gum defects but are seldom fatal. Black knot, a fungal disease
which causes elongated rough black swellings much larger than the stem,
is common in black cherry. In Pennsylvania, Cytospora leucostoma causes
a canker disease resulting in widespread branch mortality. Numerous
root and butt rotting fungi have been reported in black cherry; however,
decay generally spreads more slowly in cherry than associated trees.
See Marquis  for a complete discussion of insects and diseases of
Wind damage: Because it is shallow-rooted and has a tendency to overtop
its associates in mixed stands, black cherry is susceptible to windthrow
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”
Black cherry is sometimes grown in even-aged management –– clearcutting or shelterwood cuts are used, depending on the availability of soil-stored seed. Where deer populations are high, successful regeneration may require that larger seedlings be so abundant that deer cannot eat them all. Because it is shallow-rooted and has a tendency to overtop its associates in mixed stands, black cherry is susceptible to wind throw. Best results in establishing black cherry on reclamation or rehabilitation sites are by planting 1-year or older nursery grown seedlings. Direct seeding has generally been unsuccessful.
The thin bark of black cherry makes it highly susceptible to girdling, and it is usually killed or top-killed by fires of moderate severity. As fire severity increases, the percentage of tree-sized individuals killed also increases. When aboveground portions are killed by fire, black cherry sprouts prolifically from the root crown or stump. This vegetative reproduction, however, depletes carbohydrate reserves and leaves plants in a weakened condition. Quickly repeated fires would probably kill any seedlings and saplings that survived the first fire by resprouting.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Black cherry is used for surface mine spoil reclamation in the East.
Best results are obtained by planting 1-year-old or older nursery grown
seedlings. Direct seeding has generally been unsuccessful. In
Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, 30-year-old plantings at 9 sites
averaged 22 percent survival, 5.2 inches d.b.h. (13 cm), and 36 feet (11
m) in height .
Methods for collecting, extracting, cleaning, storing, and sowing black
cherry seed to produce nursery grown seedlings are available [21,59].
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Black cherry leaves, twigs, bark, and seeds are poisonous to livestock.
They contain a cyanogenic glycoside which breaks down during digestion
into hydrocyanic acid . Most livestock poisoning apparently comes
from eating wilted leaves, which contain more of the toxin than fresh
leaves do. One author speculated that more livestock are killed from
eating black cherry than from any other plant . White-tailed deer
eat the leaves and twigs without harm, and browse small to moderate
amounts of seedlings and saplings .
Black cherry fruits are important mast for numerous species of birds and
mammals. Numerous songbirds feed on black cherries as they migrate
south in the fall. Passerine birds that make considerable use of black
cherry fruits include the American robin, brown thrasher, mockingbird,
eastern bluebird, European starling, gray catbird, blue jay, willow
flycatcher, northern cardinal, common crow, and waxwings, thrushes,
woodpeckers, grackles, grosbeaks, sparrows, and vireos [42,43]. Black
cherries are also important in the summer and fall diets of the ruffed
grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, wild turkey, northern bobwhite, and greater
and lesser prairie chicken [33,39,58]. The red fox, raccoon, opossum,
and squirrels and rabbits also eat the fruit . Black cherries have
been described as a favorite food of black bears .
Wood Products Value
Black cherry is an important commercial tree. The rich reddish-brown
wood is strong, hard, and close-grained. It works well and finishes
smoothly, making it one of the most valued cabinet and furniture woods
in North America . Black cherry wood is also used for paneling,
interior trim, veneers, handles, crafts, toys, and scientific
instruments [17,58]. Black cherry's commercial range, where large
numbers of high-quality trees are found, is restricted to the Allegheny
Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia .
Other uses and values
remedy, tonic, and sedative. The fruit was also used to flavor rum and
brandy. Pitted fruits are edible, and are eaten raw and used in wine
and jelly .
In Pennsylvania, the protein content of twig sections in mid-April was
about 24 percent for the bud, 15 percent for the terminal 1 inch (2.5
cm) section, and 13 percent the terminal 1 to 2 inch section (2.5-5 cm)
sugar maple, white ash, yellow birch, yellow-poplar, and pin cherry
(Prunus pensylvanica) [37,54].
The fruits are highly palatable to song birds, upland game birds, and
The bark has medicinal properties. In the southern Appalachians, bark is stripped from young black cherries for use in cough medicines, tonics, and sedatives (36,39). The fruit is used for making jelly and wine. Appalachian pioneers sometimes flavored their rum or brandy with the fruit to make a drink called cherry bounce. To this, the species owes one of its names-rum cherry (36).
Black cherry wood is a rich reddish-brown color and is strong, hard, and close-grained – one of the most valued cabinet and furniture woods in North America. It is also used for paneling, interior trim, veneers, handles, crafts, toys, and scientific instruments. Black cherry is used for reclamation of surface mine spoil.
The leaves, twigs, bark, and seeds produce a cyanogenic glycoside. Most livestock poisoning apparently comes from eating wilted leaves, which contain more of the toxin than fresh leaves, but white-tailed deer browse seedlings and saplings without harm. The inner bark, where the glycoside is concentrated, was used historically in the Appalachians as a cough remedy, tonic, and sedative. The glycoside derivatives act by quelling spasms in the smooth muscles lining bronchioles. Very large amounts of black cherry pose the theoretical risk of causing cyanide poisoning.
The fruit has been used to flavor rum and brandy (“cherry bounce”). Pitted fruits are edible and are eaten raw and used in wine and jelly. Black cherry fruits are important food for numerous species of passerine birds, game birds, and mammals, including the red fox, black bear, raccoon, opossum, squirrels, and rabbits.
Prunus serotina, commonly called black cherry, wild black cherry, rum cherry, or mountain black cherry, is a woody plant species belonging to the genus Prunus. This cherry is native to eastern North America: from eastern Canada through southern Quebec and Ontario; south through the eastern United States to Texas and central Florida; with disjunct populations in Arizona and New Mexico; and in the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala.
A mature black cherry can easily be identified in a forest by its very broken, dark grey to black bark, which has the appearance of very thick, burnt cornflakes. However, for about the first decade or so of its life, the bark is thin, smooth, and striped, resembling that of a birch. It can also quickly be identified by its long, shiny leaves resembling those of a sourwood, and by an almond-like odor released when a young twig is scratched and held close to the nose.
- P. s. subsp. serotina - Canada, United States
- P. s. subsp. capuli (Cav.) McVaugh — Mexico, Guatemala
The typical subsp. P. s. serotina is sometimes further divided into four varieties, var. serotina in the east of the range, var. eximia in Texas, and vars. rufula and virens in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Black cherry is closely related to the chokecherry (Prunus virginiana); chokecherry, however, is classified as a shrub or small tree and has smaller, less glossy leaves
Ecology and cultivation
P. serotina is a pioneer species. In the Midwest, it is seen growing mostly in old fields with other sunlight-loving species, such as black walnut, black locust, and hackberry. Gleason and Cronquist (1991) describe P. serotina as "[f]ormerly a forest tree, now abundant as a weed-tree of roadsides, waste land, and forest-margins." It is a moderately long-lived tree, with ages of up to 258 years known, though it is prone to storm damage, with branches breaking easily; any decay resulting, however, only progresses slowly. Seed production begins around 10 years of age, but does not become heavy until 30 years and continues up to 100 years. Germination rates are high, and the seeds are widely dispersed by birds who eat the fruit and then excrete them. Some seeds however may remain in the soil bank and not germinate for as long as three years. All Prunus species have hard seeds that benefit from scarification to germinate (which in nature is produced by passing through an animal's digestive tract).
P. serotina was widely introduced into Western and Central Europe as an ornamental tree in the mid 20th century, where it has become locally naturalized. It has acted as an invasive species there, negatively affecting forest community biodiversity and regeneration.
P. s. subsp. capuli was cultivated in Central and South America well before European contact.
Like apricots, the seeds of black cherries contain compounds that can be converted into cyanide, such as amygdalin. These compounds release hydrogen cyanide when the seed is ground or minced, which releases enzymes that break down the compounds. These enzymes include amygdalin beta-glucosidase, prunasin beta-glucosidase and mandelonitrile lyase. In contrast, although the flesh of cherries also contain these compounds, they do not contain the enzymes needed to produce cyanide, so the flesh is safe to eat.
The foliage, particularly when wilted, contains cyanogenic glycosides, which convert to hydrogen cyanide if eaten by animals. Farmers are recommended to remove any trees that fall in a field containing livestock, because the wilted leaves could poison the animals. Removal is not always practical, though, because they often grow in very large numbers on farms, taking advantage of the light brought about by mowing and grazing. Entire fencerows can be lined with this poisonous tree, making it difficult to monitor all the branches falling into the grazing area. Black cherry is a leading cause of livestock illness, and grazing animals' access to it should be limited.
The fruit of Prunus serotina is suitable for making jam and cherry pies, and has some use in flavoring liqueurs; they are also a popular flavoring for sodas and ice creams. The black cherry is commonly used instead of sweet cherries (Prunus avium) to achieve a sharper taste. It is also used in cakes which include dark chocolate, such as a Black Forest gateau and as garnishes for cocktails.
The wood of P. serotina is also used for cooking and smoking foods, where it imparts a unique flavor.
P. serotina timber is valuable; perhaps the premier cabinetry timber of the U.S., traded as "cherry". It is known for its strong red color and high price. Its density when dried is around 580 kg/m3 (980 lb/cu yd).
P. serotina trees are sometimes planted ornamentally.
- Rehder, A. 1940, reprinted 1977. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in North America exclusive of the subtropical and warmer temperate regions. Macmillan publishing Co., Inc, New York.
- "BSBI List 2007" (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
- Marquis, D. A. (undated). U.S. Forest Service Silvics Manual: Prunus serotina Ehrh. - Black Cherry
- USDA Plants Profile: NCRS: Prunus serotina
- This odor is the result of minute amounts of cyanide compounds produced and stored by the plant as a defense mechanism against herbivores. [dead link]
- "VT Forest Biology and Dendrology". Cnr.vt.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Prunus serotina
- Gleason, Henry A. and Arthur Cronquist. 1991. "Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, Second Edition." The New York Botanical Garden. Bronx, New York. 910 pp.
- Flora of NW Europe: Prunus serotina
- Starfinger U. 1997. Introduction and naturalization of Prunus serotina in Central Europe. In: “Plant Invasions: Studies from North America and Europe” (eds by J.H. Brock, M. Wade, P.Pysek, D. Green). Backhuys Publ. Leiden: 161-171.
- Kalina M. Nowakowska, Aleksandra Halarewicz (2006). "Coleoptera found on neophyte Prunus serotina (Ehrh.) within forest community and open habitat". Electronic Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities, Biology, Volume 9, Issue 1.
- Stypiński P. 1979. Stanowiska czeremchy amerykańskiej Padus serotina (Ehrh.) Borkh. w lasach państwowych Pojezierza Mazurskiego. Rocznik dendrologiczny. 32: 191-204.
- Morton, Julia (1987). Fruits of warm climates. Miami, FL. pp. 108–109. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- Poulton JE (1988). "Localization and catabolism of cyanogenic glycosides". Ciba Foundation symposium 140: 67–91. PMID 3073063.
- Swain E, Poulton JE (October 1994). "Utilization of Amygdalin during Seedling Development of Prunus serotina". Plant physiology 106 (2): 437–445. doi:10.1104/pp.106.2.437. PMC 159548. PMID 12232341.
- Yemm RS, Poulton JE (June 1986). "Isolation and characterization of multiple forms of mandelonitrile lyase from mature black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.) seeds". Archives of biochemistry and biophysics 247 (2): 440–5. doi:10.1016/0003-9861(86)90604-1. PMID 3717954.
- Swain E, Li CP, Poulton JE (April 1992). "Development of the Potential for Cyanogenesis in Maturing Black Cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.) Fruits". Plant physiology 98 (4): 1423–1428. doi:10.1104/pp.98.4.1423. PMC 1080367. PMID 16668810.
- Missouriplants: Prunus serotina
- Niche Timbers Cherry
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prunus serotina.|
Names and Taxonomy
wild black cherry
mountain black cherry
serotina Ehrh. . Recognized varieties found in the United States
and Canada include:
var. serotina - black cherry
var. alabamensis (Mohr) Little - Alabama black cherry
var. exima (Small) Little - escarpment black cherry
var. rufula (Woot. & Standl) McVaugh - southwestern black cherry
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