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Black Cherry, A Common Tree in North America

Prunis serotina, A Top 100 Common Tree in North America

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Black cherry is the most important native cherry found throughout the eastern United States. The commercial range for a high-quality tree is found in the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. The species is very aggressive and will easily spring up where seeds are dispersed.

The Silviculture of Black Cherry

Black Cherry
Black cherry fruits are an important source of mast for major wildlife species. The leaves, twigs, and bark of black cherry contain cyanide in bound form as the cyanogenic glycoside, prunasin and can be harmful to domestic livestock that eat wilted foliage. During foliage wilting, cyanide is released and may get sick or die.

The bark has medicinal properties. In the southern Appalachians, bark is stripped from young black cherries for use in cough medicines, tonics, and sedatives. 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.

The Images of Black Cherry

Black Cherry Leaves
Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of black cherry. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Rosales > Rosaceae > Prunus serotina Ehrh. Black cherry is also commonly called wild black cherry, rum cherry, and mountain black cherry.

The Range of Black Cherry

black cherry range
Black cherry grows from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick west to Southern Quebec and Ontario into Michigan and eastern Minnesota; south to Iowa, extreme eastern Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, then east to central Florida. Several varieties extend the range: Alabama black cherry (var. alabamensis) is found in eastern Georgia, northeastern Alabama, and northwest Florida with local stands in North and South Carolina; escarpment cherry (var. eximia) grows in the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas; southwestern black cherry (var. rufula) ranges from the mountains of Trans-Pecos Texas west to Arizona and south into Mexico.

Black Cherry at Virginia Tech Dendrology

Leaf: Alternate, simple, 2 to 5 inches long, oblong to lance-shaped, finely serrated, very small inconspicuous glands on petiole, dark green and lustrous above, paler below; usually with a dense yellowish-brown, sometimes white pubescence along mid-rib.

Twig: Slender, reddish brown, sometimes covered in gray epidermis, pronounced bitter almond odor and taste; buds are very small (1/5 inch),covered in several glossy, reddish brown to greenish scales. Leaf scars are small and semicircular with 3 bundle scars.

Fire Effects on Black Cherry

Black cherry typically sprouts when above ground portions are killed by fire. It is generally considered a prolific sprouter. Each top-killed individual produces several sprouts that grow rapidly.

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