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Prunus cerasus - L.

Common Name Sour 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 Hedges in S. England[17].
Range S.E. Europe to W. Asia. Naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Prunus cerasus Sour Cherry


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Prunus cerasus Sour Cherry
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Summary


Physical Characteristics

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Prunus cerasus is a deciduous Tree growing to 6 m (19ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in July. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Cerasus communis. C. vulgaris.

Habitats

Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Gum  Gum  Oil  Oil  Tea

Fruit - raw or cooked[1, 2, 5, 11, 12]. Pleasantly acid, the fruit can be eaten out of hand, used in pies, preserves etc or dried for later use[183]. The fruit is about 18mm 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 oil is obtained from the seed[46, 61]. When refined it is used as a salad oil[183]. The leaves are used as a tea substitute[46, 61, 183]. A gum obtained from the trunk is used for chewing[61, 64].

Medicinal Uses

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Astringent  Bitter  Febrifuge  Nervine  Salve

The bark is astringent, bitter and febrifuge[240]. An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of fevers, coughs and colds[257]. The root bark has been used as a wash for old sores and ulcers[257]. The seed is nervine[240]. 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

Adhesive  Dye  Gum  Gum  Hedge  Hedge  Oil  Oil  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Plants can be grown as a hedge[50 ], succeeding in fairly exposed positions[K ]. An excellent nectar plant, yielding both nectar and pollen[74 ]. Other Uses: An edible drying oil obtained from the seed is also used in cosmetics[61 ]. Seeds contain an almond -flavoured fatty oil (24 - 35%) which rapidly becomes more bitter; this is used in the manufacture of soap and is suitable for burning. The oil contains a large quantity of amygdalin[74 ]. The stones are used as well: according to American data, 1,000 tons of stones yields 448 tons of kernels which can yield to 96,235.5 kg (95,563 liters) of syrup, 22,736 liters of spirits, 338,130 liters qf gum, 200 tons of powder, 3 tons of essential oil, and 4.134 tons of fatty oil[74 ]. The gum obtained from the stem can be used as an adhesive[61 , 64 ]. It is used in the manufacture of cloth[74 ] (as a size?). A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168 ]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168 ]. The plant can be used as a rootstock for cultivated cherries[74 ]. The plant is used in breeding programmes for the sweet cherry. The bark contains 5 - 7% tannins, including some quercetin[74 ]. The yellowish red wood is compact, rather heavy. It is suitable for use in woodwork and lathework for making pipes, cigarette holders, hoops for barrels etc[74 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Hedge  Hedge

Cultivation details

Thrives in a well-drained moisture-retentive loamy soil[11, 200]. Prefers some lime in the soil but is likely to become chlorotic if too much lime is present[1]. Prefers an acid soil according to another report[5]. Succeeds in sun or partial shade though it fruits better in a sunny position[11, 200]. Plants are succeeding in a fairly exposed maritime position at Rosewarne in N. Cornwall[K]. Plants are hardy to about -20°c[184]. Long cultivated for its edible fruit, there are many named varieties[1, 50]. See separate entries for the various sub-species[K]. It is also a parent, with P. avium, of many cultivars of sweet cherries[1, 17]. Many cultivars will succeed on a north or east facing wall[219]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. Plants produce suckers freely[184]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. 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[113]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring. Division of suckers during the dormant season. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

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

   Thu Aug 24 2006

Surprixed to see the edibility rating on this one is 1! It's one of my favorite snack fruits, with it's pleasant cranberry-sour edge.

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