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Black cherry

Botanical Name:

Prunus serotina

Common Name:

Black cherry,Black or rum cherry,Cerisier tardif ou d’automne,Merisier,Wild black cherry,Rum cherry,Wild Cherry,Wild Rum Cherry,Cerezo,capulí.


Ranging from southeastern Canada through the eastern United States west to eastern Texas, with disjunct populations in central Texas and mountains of the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, Black cherry is a 25-110 ft. deciduous tree, distinctly conical in youth. When open-grown it becomes oval-headed with spreading, pendulous limbs and arching branches. Crowded trees grow tall and slender. Southwestern varieties are often shrubby. Leaves shiny on the upper surface; blade oblong with a long pointed tip and tapering base, margins finely serrate. White flowers are held in drooping racemes after the glossy leaves have emerged. The dark red fruit changes to black from August through October. Aromatic tree; crushed foliage and bark have distinctive cherry-like odor and bitter taste, owing to the same cyanide-forming toxic compounds, such as amygdalin, found in the wood and leaves of some other woody members of the Rosaceae. Fall foliage is yellow. This widespread species is the largest and most important native cherry. The valuable wood is used particularly for furniture, paneling, professional and scientific instruments, handles, and toys. Wild cherry syrup, a cough medicine, is obtained from the bark, and jelly and wine are prepared from the fruit. While the fruit is edible and used in beverages and cooking, the rest of the plant contains amygdalin and can be toxic if consumed. One of the first New World trees introduced into English gardens, it was recorded as early as 1629 in Europe and is now highly invasive there and in northern South America. Five geographical varieties are currently distinguished: P. serotina var. serotina (Eastern black cherry) in eastern North America as far west as east Texas, P. serotina var. eximia (Escarpment black cherry) in central Texas, and varieties virens (Southwestern black cherry) and rufula (Chisos black cherry) in mountains of southwestern North America. Populations inhabiting the interior mountains of Mexico and Guatemala are assigned to the subspecies P. serotina ssp. capuli (Capulin black cherry) but are sometimes classed as variety salicifolia.

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Prunus - Flowering Trees




Bloom Time

Spring, Mar, Apr, May, Jun

Plant Type

Trees, Native Plant, Poisonous, Tree, Tree.


Woody, Perennial

Plant Height

12-36 ft., 36-72 ft., 72-100 ft., More than 100 ft.


3-6 inches long pendulous racemes of many small fragrant white 5-petaled flowers that appear with the foliage in late April to May., Flowers 7-10 mm wide in 6-15 cm long racemes, Flowers right after leaves emerge.


3/8 inch purple-black cherries in drooping clusters that ripen in late summer. Bitter tasting off the tree., Black, Red 7-10 mm in diameter

How to Grow


Average, Medium


Full Sun, Partial Sun, Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day), Sun, Part Shade, Shade


Well-drained soils. pH preference depends on variety and region, with Eastern Black Cherry preferring neutral to acidic, Escarpment Black Cherry rich but more calcareous limestone soils, and the Southwestern varieties accepting a broad range.

Cold Tolerant



A showy tree with handsome trunk and branches, attractive foliage, especially in fall, and ornamental blooms and fruit. Easy to grow.







All parts of Prunus species except the fruits contain poisonous substances and should never be eaten. The bark, leaves, and seeds of this species are especially toxic. POISONOUS PARTS: Wilted leaves, twigs (stems), seeds. Highly toxic to humans and herbivorous mammals. May be fatal if ingested. Symptoms include gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma, respiratory failure. Toxic Principle: Cyanogenic glycoside, amygdalin, prussic acid. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)

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