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Prunus avium - L.

Common Name Wild Cherry, Sweet cherry
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Better soils in hedgerows and woods, especially in beech woods[5, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Prunus avium Wild Cherry, Sweet cherry


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Prunus avium Wild Cherry, Sweet cherry
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Summary

Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prunus avium is a deciduous Tree growing to 18 m (59ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Cerasus nigra. C. sylvestris.

Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Seed
Edible Uses: Gum

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 12, 13]. It can be sweet or bitter but it is not acid[11]. The fruit can be cooked in pies etc or used to make preserves. The fruit contains about 78% water, 8.5 - 14% sugars[74]. The fruit is about 20mm in diameter and contains one large seed[200]. Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity. An edible gum is obtained by wounding the bark[115, 183].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antitussive  Astringent  Diuretic  Tonic

The fruit stalks are astringent, diuretic and tonic[4, 7, 238]. A decoction is used in the treatment of cystitis, oedema, bronchial complaints, looseness of the bowels and anaemia[4, 238]. An aromatic resin can be obtained by making small incisions in the trunk[7]. This has been used as an inhalant in the treatment of persistent coughs[7]. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[238].

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Other Uses

Dye  Gum  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Wild cherry is essentially a pioneer species, and quickly colonises clearings by seeds and suckering, forming secondary woodland, but is often out-competed later by other hardwood species. It is used extensively in Europe for the afforestation of agricultural land and it is also valued for wildlife and amenity plantings[1195 ]. The flowers are a good source of pollen and nectar for bees[74 , 1145 ]. This species is a bad companion for potatoes, making them more susceptible to potato blight[201 ], it also suppresses the growth of wheat[18 ]. It also grows badly with plum trees, its roots giving out an antagonistic secretion[201 ]. Other Uses: A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168 ]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168 ]. The bark, especially of the root, contains the dye phlorizin[74 ]. The wood contains the dye xylan[74 ]. The seed contains around 30% oil[74 ]. The bark usually only contains small amounts of tannin, but this sometimes rises to 16%[223 ]. This species has been utilized to breed cherry cultivars with resistance to frost and a number of diseases. Among cultivated forms there are very ornamental ones with double and pink flowers, motley or dissected leaves as well as with a drooping crown[1145 ] The heartwood is pinkish-brown; the sapwood red. The grain is fine and straight, with a satiny texture. The wood is firm, compact, and generally free from defects. A valuable, attractive timber that is easy to work, it is used for turnery, furniture, cabinet making, panelling, musical instruments etc[46 , 74 , 100 , 115 , 1195 ]. The red sapwood is valued in turnery and woodwork[74 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Espalier. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 11]. Succeeds in light shade but fruits better in a sunny position[11, 200]. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[11]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present[1]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is fast growing on deep moist soils[11] but is shallow rooting[98]. Trees cast a light shade and are themselves intolerant of heavy shade[186]. They produce quite a lot of suckers and can form thickets, especially if the main trunk is felled[186]. This species is a parent of many cultivated forms of sweet cherries[17, 34], especially the black fruited forms[11]. Where space is at a premium, or at the limits of their climatic range, sweet cherries can be grown against a wall. Most cultivars will grow well against a sunny south or west facing wall though east or north facing walls are not very suitable[219]. The main problems with growing this species against a wall are firstly that it is usually completely self-sterile and so there needs to be space for at least two different cultivars[186], secondly it is very vigorous and so is difficult to keep within bounds[219]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. An excellent tree for insects[24] and the fruit is a good food source for birds. A bad companion for potatoes, making them more susceptible to potato blight[201], it also suppresses the growth of wheat[18]. It also grows badly with plum trees, its roots giving out an antagonistic secretion[201]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. Special Features:Edible, Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. A sprouting standard sending up shoots from the base [1-2].

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Propagation

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[200]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[200]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[11, 200]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame[200]. Division of suckers in the dormant season[98]. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. Layering in spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Botanical References

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Readers comment

jane   Thu Jan 12 2006

Great information, and thanks. I have quite a few trees in the yard, and am unsure of the safety of composting them. Any thoughts?

richard Armitage   Sun Jul 2 2006

Usefull, more on cultivation please I am told: to transplant as many viable saplings will be found near mature tree, 1st bake root ball buy producing root ball aprox 0.5m diameter by using spade to seperate roots to depth about 0.3m in summer keep watered after this trauma, periodically spading to discourage roots escaping ball. Transpant in early winter December into well prepared site before any hard frost.

Sami Haag   Wed Apr 30 2008

Dear, I have new cherries trees, Do they like Water in Summer? How may years a cherry tree can live, maximum? I planted them on 600 Meters altitude (Mediterenean area) Lebanon it's 1800 feet in US size, we have Snow 2 times a year in the area, I planted the Cherries. Well, So it's not a very cold area and not very warm, Medium. My Cherries Trees are, Prunus Avium (Mahaleb) Variety: New Star Thanks for Help Do you have an idea about the Granny Smith apples Trees? Regards

   Tue Sep 2 2008

PLease could you tell me and help me to get rid of a black sticky residue on my steela eating cherry tee it appears tobe on the tops of the tree thank you for your help GERRY WHITE

cengiz öksüz   Mon Sep 29 2008

guten tag ich suchhe PRUNUS zaamen fuchr turkai bitte kone sie mier zagen wie das ich finden konen bitte informasyon

ashraf   Mon May 4 2009

thank you alot for these information i want know the cuases of burning of cherry leaves edges please

L   Mon Sep 14 2009

is the wild cherry tree classified as a leafy tree? If not what is it classified as, evergreen, coniferous etc? Thanks!

   Mar 5 2013 12:00AM

The leaves are used in Lithuanian pickling recipes. Here is an example given to me by a Lithuanian friend but sadly lacking quantities: coarse salt garlic wild horseradish leaf dill oak leaves cherry leaves or blackcurrant leaves peppercorns

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