How To Grow A Black Cherry Tree: Information On Wild Black Cherry Trees

How To Grow A Black Cherry Tree: Information On Wild Black Cherry Trees

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The wild black cherry tree (Prunus serontina) is an indigenous North American tree which will grow to between 60-90 feet tall with lightly serrated, shiny, dark green leaves. Growing black cherries have low branches which tend to droop and brush the ground.

Growing black cherries are conical to ovoid in shape. These rapidly growing deciduous trees turn beautiful shades of yellow-gold to red in the fall. Wild black cherry trees also bear 5-inch long white flowers in early spring which turn to tiny but juicy, reddish black edible berries during the summer months.

Additional Information on Wild Black Cherry Trees

The leaves and twigs of growing black cherries contain hydrocyanic acid, which has the potential to poison livestock or other animals when consumed in large quantities. Strangely, despite its toxicity, the fruit (non-toxic) is a valuable food source for a plethora of birds such as:

  • American Robin
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • European
  • Starling
  • Gray Catbird
  • Bluejay
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Crows
  • Woodpeckers
  • Sparrows
  • Wild Turkeys

Other animals rely on the black cherries fruit for nutrition including:

  • Red Fox
  • Opossum
  • Raccoon
  • Squirrel
  • Cottontail
  • Whitetail Deer
  • Mice
  • Vole

A vast array of caterpillars enjoy munching on the wild black cherry too. In turn, the animals serve to aid in the propagation of wild black cherries by evacuating the seeds and dropping on the forest floor. Note: if you don’t want the above animals in the landscape, steer clear of wild black cherry trees.

The fruit may also be used in jams, jellies and liqueurs.

Additional information on wild black cherry trees is in regards to its fragrant, but bitter, inner bark being utilized in cough syrups. Further wild black cherry tree information points to its use as a highly prized wood since colonial times in the creation of fine furniture.

How to Grow a Black Cherry Tree

Intrigued? So, I guess you’d like to know how to grow a black cherry tree. First off, growing black cherries are hardy to USDA zones 2-8. Otherwise, the black cherry tree’s requirements are relatively simple. The tree prefers some sun exposure but is most often found in the wild as an understory tree, living beneath the canopy of forest and hence often in shadow. Black cherry trees will tolerate a variety of soil media.

Before transplanting black cherry trees, however, keep in mind that the tree is quite messy. The dropping fruit tends to stain concrete and the remaining seeds can be treacherous for anyone walking beneath the tree.

Transplanting Black Cherry Trees

While the wild black cherry tree is considered by some to be almost a noxious weed since it easily propagates via seed dispersal from animals, if you have decided that you would like a specimen in your yard, the easiest method is transplanting black cherry trees. The trees can either be harvested from out in the natural forest, or for more disease resistance, better purchased from a reputable nursery.

Consider the location carefully with attention paid to potential staining, probably not near walkways or pavement. When transplanting black cherry trees has been completed, be sure to keep weed free and mulch heavily around the base to maintain moisture retention around the root ball.

Once established, do not transplant again as the root system is fairly shallow and to do so may damage the tree irrevocably.

With the exception of the dreaded tent caterpillar that can decimate the leaves entirely, growing wild black cherry trees are resistant to most pest and diseases.

Black Tartarian Cherry Prunus avium ‘Black Tartarian’

If you’re looking to start or add to your orchard, the black Tartarian cherry may be a good option.

  • Looks great in a spring garden, or planted singly in a woodland.
  • The wild cherry is much better for wildlife than the double bloomed cultivated varieties insects cannot get at the nectar sources.
  • White blooms in the spring look beautiful upon the branches.
  • The berries are a good food source for bird making it an attraction in the garden.
  • We call it the "Love Tree" because everybody loves it!
  • All cherries are prone to black fly which feed on the leaves making some of them curl up and wither, but the tree survives.
  • The tree is not tolerant of waterlogged soil or heavy shade.
  • Strong winds can knock off the flowers, so don’t plant it in an exposed position.
  • If pruned at the wrong time the tree can be susceptible to silver leaf infection.

Buy a Wild Cherry Tree

Send a tree as a gift with Tree2mydoor. We have specialised in sending trees as gifts for over 15 years.

Our Wild Cherry Tree Gift is the ideal native sapling to send to someone with a smaller garden. Their blossom makes them one of the prettiest native trees that the UK has to offer and is popular for a wide variety of occasions such as weddings, christening and to plant for a memorial. Read more about the natural history and wisdom of the tree and see why you should send one to a loved one.


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Yale University

Prunus serotina grows abundantly in North America. The species was introduced from America to England in the seventeenth century, where the tree was prized among gardeners for its attractive fall foliage, lace-like blossoms, and fruit. The cherries, which taste bittersweet, may be eaten raw and can been used in jellies/jams and also as a flavor extract in syrups, though commercial cultivation of black cherry is not highly common. Native Americans consumed the fruit of Prunus serotina raw and also in breads and cakes (as the Iroquois did). The medicinal uses of Prunus serotina were well-known among Native American populations. For instance, the Chippewa used the twigs to make a beverage, and the Potawatomi used the fruit to make spirits. The tree’s inner bark, when dried, could be made into a tea that alleviated the symptoms of colds, fevers, diarrhea, labor pains. The root could also be used to treat intestinal worms, burns, cold sores, and certain skin conditions. The fruit is used today often in rum, whiskey, and brandy drinks.

“Black Cherry,” Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere. American Indian Health and Diet Project (Accessed April 20, 2017).

“Black cherry.” Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech. (Accessed April 20, 2017).

“Black Cherry.” PLANTS Database, National Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. (accessed March 12, 2017).

“Black Cherry - Prunus serotina - Overview.” Encyclopedia of Life. (Accessed 16 April, 2017).

“Prunus serotina.” Nature’s Notebook. USA National Phenology Network. (accessed March 12, 2017).

“Prunus serotina.” Plant Database, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. prse2 (accessed April 20, 2017).

“Prunus serotina: Black Cherry.” University of Florida IFAS Extension. (accessed April 20, 2017).

Wild Cherry

By Peter Balakian, in Poetry Magazine (Nov. 1994)

fingering the twigs for grip,

around the last sturdy branch

my hands were streaked with juice

(no larger than its three spare feet)

feeling how thin the world

The berries small and dry

were all that stood between me

My fingers full of leaves

Bark falling from my skin

my head light and whirring

light around the branches

Old Lady to King Henry VIII, in Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII:

And of a lovely boy: the God of heaven

Both now and ever bless her! ‘tis a girl,

Promises boys hereafter. Sir, your queen

Desires your visitation, and to be

Acquainted with this stranger ‘tis as like you

Leanoard Holmesworthe, in Shakespeare’s Garden, writes that Shakespeare is probably making reference to the cherries cultivated in English gardens (which were often individuals of Prunus serotina).

“Wild Cherry Tree”

1901, oil on canvas, by the American impressionist John Henry Twachtman (1853–1902)

The painting resides at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in Buffalo, NY.


Despite the fact that black cherry is often messy when it drops fruit and seeds, the tree is prized for its ornamental qualities. Black cherry displays fragrant white blooms in early spring and reddish-black berries in summer. The large, dark green leaves turn yellow, orange and red in autumn. The bark of young trees is smooth and reddish-brown, maturing to an interesting scaly texture. To minimize cleanup, plant black cherry trees away from sidewalks and other paved areas.

Watch the video: Black Cherry Prunus serotina