12 Black Cherry
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29 Black Cherry QR
Basic Information about this tree
  • Scientific Name: Prunus serotina
  • Common name: wild black cherry, black cherry
  • Deciduous Special Notice! Black Cherry Leaves are poisonous due to Cyanide content. More detail below.
  • Sunlight / Moisture requirements / Soil preference: Prefers moist, rich, slightly acidic loam soil. Full Sun , Part Shade.  It does not do well in very wet or very dry sites.  
  • Flowering type: Complete flowers with both Female and Male parts
  • Pollination strategy: Insects
  • Native
  • Age Estimate/ Health:
  • Longevity: 65 to 100yrs.
  • Mature Size: 50ft to 80 ft tall by 30-60 ft wide
  • GPS Coordinates N45.00326 W92.90266

Mature Tree in Winter/ Summer

Leaves in Summer / Fall

12 black cherry summer leaves
12 black cherry fall leaves

Flowers - Monoecious with both Female & Male Parts -

12 black cherry flowers
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Fruit Unripe / Ripe

The fruit is distinctive, a very dark red to almost black drupe (a drupe is a fleshy fruit with a single seed in the center).

12 Black cherry unripe fruit
12 black cherry fruit

Bark of Mature Tree / young tree

The bark of a younger black cherry can be confused with buckthorn bark

12 black cherry mature bark b
12 Black cherry young bark

The root system of black cherry is predominantly spreading and shallow, even in well-drained soils. Most roots are restricted to the upper 60 cm (24 in) of soil or less, with occasional sinker roots extending to depths of 90 to 120 cm (36 to 48 in). Ref: USDA publication cited below

Uses in Traditional and Modern Eras

Poison: Cherry is an interesting tree. While the fruit is edible and medicinal, and the inner bark is also medicinal, most of the rest of the tree is extremely toxic. Cherry foliage and pits contain hydrocyanic acid. You can smell this when you crush a leaf or cut a part of a cherry tree–it has that distinct bitter almond smell. The leaves have the highest concentration of hydrocyanic acid, and as they wilt, cyanide is produced, making them extremely toxic to humans and most livestock animals, such as goats, sheep, and cattle. 

Value for wildlife: Honeybees use the nectar and pollenAnimals eat Black Cherry’s fleshy fruit, including many bird species such as thrushes, woodpeckers, sparrows, bluebirds, tanagers, orioles, and Cedar Waxwings.

Utility for Humans: Black cherry can be used as an ornamental tree due to its showy fragrant flowers in the spring. Most people know about cherries, but they think of the grocery store cherries – plump, juicy, red, or purple cherries from cultivated cherry trees for market sales. Wild black cherry fruits have been used for cough syrup. Cherry syrup can also be obtained from the bark and used as a cough syrup. Jelly and sometimes wine can be made from the fruit, which can also be used to flavor certain liquors like brandy or whiskey. Because of its fine characteristics, cherry wood is used for various scientific instruments, printers’ blocks, holding and shaping tools in fine crystal production, pianos and organs, handles and caskets.

Traditional uses in Native American Tree Medicine (historical). Information provided by Paul Red Elk, Lakota Medicine Man: Woodland Medicine healers spoke of Black cherries, which would be cooked down to make a simple cough syrup. It is known to soften mucus especially from those suffering from pneumonia and bronchitis. Its best to cook the cherries down, then strain out the pits, which is probably the easiest method of removing them.

Links & References

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