Black Cherry

Prunus serotina

Black Cherry

This widespread species is the largest and most important native cherry. [1]  Prunus serotina, commonly called black cherry, wild cherry or wild rum cherry, is native to eastern North America, Mexico and Central America. [4]

Black Cherry leaves

Black cherry is a medium-sized , fast-growing forest tree growing to a height of 50-80 feet.  It is a moderately long-lived tree, with ages of up to 258 years known, though it is prone to storm damage, with branches breaking easily. [4]

Seeds may be produced on trees as young as 10 years, but maximum production in natural stands occurs on trees 30-100 years old. Some seed is produced yearly, with good crops produced at 1-5-year intervals. Seeds from one crop germinate over a period of 3 years.  This delayed germination allows large numbers of seeds to be banked in the forest floor. [3]

Identification and Description

Black Cherry bark

The bark of larger trunks is fissured and scaly, but thin. [3]

Leaves are 2″ to 5″ in length, ovate-lanceolate in shape, with finely toothed margins.  Fall leaf color is yellow to red.  Flowers are small, white and 5-petalled, in racemes 4″ to 6″ long which contain several dozen flowers. The flowers give rise to edible reddish-black “berries”.

Supported Wildlife and Other Uses

Fruit consumed by 33 species of birds and many mammals and it attracts birds and butterflies. [1]

Black Cherry is the larval host for:  Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Cherry Gall Azure, Viceroy, Columbia Silkmoth, Promethea Moth, Small-eyed Sphinx Moth, Wild Cherry Sphinx Moth, Banded Tussock Moth, Band-edged Prominent, Spotted Apatelodes. [1]

Black Cherry fruits are important food for numerous species of passerine birds, game birds, and mammals, including the red fox, black bear, raccoon, opossum, squirrels, and rabbits. [3]

Black cherry wood is a rich reddish-brown color and is strong, hard, and close-grained – one of the most valued cabinet and furniture woods in North America. [3]

Champion Black Cherry Trees in Atlanta and Georgia

Atlanta Champion Trees – full list
Georgia Champion Trees – full list
Intown Hawk – Condensed Atlanta and Georgia List

References and Additional Information

[1]  Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Prunus serotina
[2]  Missouri Botanical Garden: Prunus serotina
[3]  UDSA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Plant Fact Sheet: Black Cherry
[4]  Wikipedia: Prunus serotina
[5]  Butterflies and Moths of North America