Prunus serotina (Black Cherry)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; hardwood forest|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||50 to 100 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Numerous nodding, cylindrical racemes 2 to 4½ inches long, at the tips and small lateral shoots of branches, each with 20 to 60 short-stalked flowers. Flowers are about 1/3 inch across with 5 white, round petals, a reddish orange center with a ring of yellow tipped stamens around a single central style. The 5 sepals are 1/3 or less the length of the petals, oblong to triangular, with glands or glandular serrations along the edges. Flower stalks are slender and hairless.
Leaves and bark:
Leaves are simple and alternate, the blade elliptical to somewhat oblong or oval, 2½ to 4½ inches long and to 1 to 2 inches wide, somewhat abruptly tapered to a sharp point, rounded at the base, on a stalk up to about 1 inch long with 1 to several glands near the blade. The upper surface is dark green and shiny, the lower surface lighter and mostly smooth or with hairs along the mid-vein near the base, the hairs white on young leaves becoming rusty colored as they mature. Edges have fine blunt teeth with dark, gland-like tips.
Bark is grayish brown, smooth with conspicuous horizontal pores (lenticels), becoming dark gray to black with coarse scaly plates peeling upward around the edges, often described as resembling burnt potato chips. The trunk can typically get up to just over 24 inches in diameter at breast height.
Black Cherry is Minnesota largest Prunus species, occupying the canopy throughout Minnesota's central and southeastern forests. Semi shade tolerant it can persist as a small understory tree amongst more open canopies and, in the absence of fire, can establish in open fields and disturbed habitats via the spread of its seeds by birds. It is the second most prized hardwood for cabinetry after black walnut. While it does not sucker heavily from the roots like other native cherries, it is rarely used in the landscape, being considered somewhat weedy and also moderately susceptible to the fungal disease black knot, which can disfigure its shape. A small Black Cherry tree may be confused with Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), which has similar cylindrical flower clusters but rarely grows taller than 20 feet in Minnesota, has proportionately broader leaves, sepals that wither away as fruit matures, hairs on the leaf underside in the vein axils, and relatively smooth bark that may become furrowed but lacks the peeling plates of Black Cherry.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Black Cherry in a home landscape
- more leaves
- fall color
- smooth bark of young tree
- scaly bark of old tree
- leaves emerging in early spring
- more flowers
- black knot fungus
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?