Black Cherry

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
The Black Cherry, also known as “Wild Black Cherry”, has a somewhat mixed reputation. When planted in the right place it can be a satisfactory landscape tree that provides some fruit for folks interested in making pies and jellies. On the other hand, because birds and small mammals just adore those cherries, their spreading of the pits which germinate quite easily makes the tree a wood weed in many areas. A native of Eastern and Mid-Western North America, Black Cherry is what is called a “pioneer invader” tree in open fields or woodlots.

In youth this tree displays a symmetrical, often pyramidal growth habit, but it often divides into several upright branches due to storm damage and assumes an irregular shape as it matures. Low branches normally droop and touch the ground. These are easily removed to create clearance beneath the canopy. It has black-gray, flaky mature bark, which looks like black cornflakes pasted on the trunk of the tree.

Leaves of Black Cherry are among the first to emerge in early spring. They are alternate, simple, and have fine serrations along their margins. The shiny leaves are dark green on their uppersides, light green on their undersides, and easily flutter in the breeze. Fall color is a subdued mixture of green, yellow, and orange hues, sometimes with a hint of red.

The showy white flowers of Black Cherry are arranged in long, pendulous, cylindrical structures that adorn the tree in mid-spring. The flowers are slightly fragrant, attract many bees, and later give rise to the fruits. Sometimes the black cherries are used for jams, jellies, or liqueurs. The down side is that they stain concrete as they fall in summer, and people can roll on the hard seed. If you plant Black Cherry, it is probably best to locate it away from walks and pavement.

Wild Cherry cough syrup is made from the reddish-brown, fragrant, and bitter inner bark of this tree. In addition the wood of the Black Cherry is highly prized by wood workers. Its beautiful, fine-grained, orange-brown to mahogany-colored heartwood ranks second only to Black Walnut as the ultimate choice for making solid wood furniture, interior trim, and high-quality veneer.

see all questions...

Do you have a gardening question? Ask Nancy