Among my earliest memories of wandering around our property about 20 miles due north of where we live now was the chokecherry, which I found in Petrides Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs, in the Petersen Field Guide Series. I just looked it up this morning, and it's Prunus virginiana, just as you said, Sharon. Not too long ago I made a pretty potent dye from both wood and roots. Yarn dyed from it is still holding color three and a half years later; it's a lovely reddish brown, more red than brown. I suspect that folks referred to it as "wild cherry" also, but up here is never grew more than ten or so feet high in zone 4/5.
However, we also have Black Cherry, Prunus serotina, which is related, of course, but a whole 'nother tree. It also gets called wild cherry here. This can go up to 80 feet or so, and very big around. It makes absolutely lovely lumber; I have seen boards in antique tables 18 inches across. We have three of these on our property here -- one a huge one, which I hope outlives me, because I will be crushed to see anything happen to it; I love that tree. Then there are two smaller ones, one of which is close to where my husband parks his car. Since the birds love that tree at bearing time you can imagine the results.
Thanks for writing up my favorite tree family, Sharon.
Very nice and informative article. I have the related Black Cherry often called corner cherry or incorrectly Polk Cherry because they often were planted by the birds while sitting on the fence posts. The fruit and leaves are somewhat alike. Mine exceeds forty feet and has be unmercifully whacked off by myself and others to keep it in bounds. It is on a corner. It has four remaining logs. Two log sections have been removed. They both yielded five or six approximately eighteen inch wide five quarter sawed boards ten feet long. The boards are properly protected and stacked where they air dried. I doubt very much that many folks would know the difference just looking at finished wood. Many pieces of beautiful cherry turn of the century furniture design will be made from these boards and the four that are still growing. Both of the first two logs taken from the corner clump growth were judged to be venier quality. I chose to pass the high number offer for those logs because I traded them to a good furniture craftsman for one selected piece to place in our home. Incidentally the corner trees grew best because no one could farm over top of their roots. The corners were left free for wildlife, brambles and trees like this to grow. To this day the tree remains the property line marker. No one has been able to place metal marker within two or three feet of where the marker should be. All three of we neighbors just eyeball lines into the center of the tree. Good enough for country boys.
Mary, I made dye from many plants when I was growing up, still do, in fact...but I don't remember making it from the wild cherry tree. I might have to change that. It's good to know about the Black Cherry as well. I'm so glad others appreciate those trees. Thank you for sharing your trees with us.
Hi Doc, it's good that you mention the furniture aspect. I have a pie safe that one of my great grandfathers built in the early 1800's or thereabouts, and I've been wondering about its wood. Of course time has altered its color somewhat, but it looks to be made of cherry. It's a treasure, even though I don't remember that the black cherry grew wild there in the southern Appalachians.
I know about trees as property markers. Our mountain land has been in our family since sometime in the 1700's and when I last saw those property descriptions, I remember the markers: "300' to the largest white pine east of the cliff overhang..."
Thank you both for reading the article.
Happy Valentine's Day!