Black Cherry

Black Cherry

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Prunus serotina
Rosaceae (roses)

A medium to large tree with a straight trunk, somewhat hanging branches and a rather spreading, rounded crown.

Leaves alternate, simple, with a leathery texture, rounded at base, 2–6 inches long, 1–2 inches wide, elliptical; margin finely toothed with teeth turning inward. Upper surface dark green, shiny; lower surface paler with hairs along the midvein; leaf stalk with small glands near the leaf base.

Bark dark reddish brown, smooth when young; black, broken into small, scaly plates with turned-back edges with age.

Twigs slender, flexible, smooth, reddish- or olive brown with a grayish coating; pores small, numerous; with an extremely bitter almond taste and smell upon scratching.

Flowers April–May in dense, elongated, cylindrical clusters, 2–3 inches long, flowers about ¼ inch across, with 5 white petals.

Fruits August–September, clusters with 15–30 fruits, each round, dark purple to black, ¼-½ inch across, shiny, thin-skinned, with juicy flesh, bittersweet, edible.

Height: to 60 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs on a variety of soils, but it grows best in upland woods and along streams, on deep, rich alluvial soils. Often associated with bitternut hickory, walnut, northern red oak, white oak, sugar maple and basswood, and attains its greatest quality when it grows in competition for light with surrounding trees.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Human connections: 
Demand for quality black cherry ranks second only to black walnut. Veneer, furniture and lumber are made from this tree. The wood is a rich red color, is easy to machine and holds its shape well. This species has long been used in landscaping. The fruit is used for making jelly and wine.
Ecosystem connections: 
At least 33 species of birds, including bobwhite, wild turkey and ruffed grouse, as well as raccoons, opossums, squirrels, rabbits and others consume the fruit.
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