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PlantFiles: Wild Black Cherry
Prunus serotina

Family: Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Prunus (PROO-nus) (Info)
Species: serotina (se-roh-TEE-nuh) (Info)

7 vendors have this plant for sale.

18 members have or want this plant for trade.

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over 40 ft. (12 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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6 positives
7 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral coriaceous On Mar 6, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A very fast-growing, short-lived tree commonly reaching 50-60', native to eastern North America. Excellent for birds and wildlife, and a profitable timber tree, or an ecologically valuable component of a mixed hardwood forest, if you're restoring native woodland.

The foliage is toxic to livestock. The tiny black fruits are unpalatably bitter fresh, but have traditionally been used for wine or jelly.

In the garden or small property, I give this thumbs-down. It does not make an ornamental specimen, even in full bloom. The flowers are tiny and I don't find them at all showy. I also find them mildly malodorous. The foliage is consistently troubled by tent caterpillars and webworms, and the twigs are commonly disfigured by black knot fungus.

Like most cherries, it has thirsty, competitive roots. It self-sows weedily and aggressively. The wood is brittle and presents a hazard when it breaks. And the cherries stain everything black when they fall, those that the birds leave.

Positive plant_it On May 19, 2013, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

A showy tree with handsome trunk and branches, attractive foliage, especially in fall, and ornamental blooms and fruit. Easy to grow.

Birds and butterflies love it. Fruit consumed by 33 species of birds and many mammals. It's the larval host for the 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 and Spotted Apatelodes.

Ranging from southeastern Canada through the eastern United States west to eastern Texas, with disjunct populations in central Texas and mountains of the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, Black cherry is a 25-110 ft. deciduous tree, distinctly conical in youth. When open-grown it becomes oval-headed with spreading, pendulous limbs and arching branches. Crowded trees grow tall and slender. Southwestern varieties are often shrubby.

White flowers are held in drooping racemes after the glossy leaves have emerged. The dark red fruit changes to black from August through October. Aromatic tree; crushed foliage and bark have distinctive cherry-like odor and bitter taste. Fall foliage is yellow.

Positive Halfspied On Sep 19, 2011, Halfspied from Star, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

They are all through our woods. I don't mind the tent caterpillars because I think they bring the cuckoos to us.

Positive killdawabbit On Jun 5, 2011, killdawabbit from Christiana, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

Very common and hardy in my area. I have a few in my landscape and it reseeds EVERYWHERE. But it's worth the effort to pull them. I wouldn't be without at least one Black Cherry. For the birds if no other reason.
Here it is a very attractive tree. Does get tent caterpillars in this area though. So be warned.

Positive peachespickett On Mar 17, 2008, peachespickett from Huntington, AR wrote:

Invaluable wildlife plant, in addition to feeding a myriad of animals over 70 species of birds eat black cherries. Beautiful bark, flowers and foliage. We have many growing on overgrown parts of our property, so we clear the briars and honeysuckles off of them and prune them up nicely. Last year (2007) we had an April 8 hard freeze which killed the flowers on most of the trees, and I didn't see a single cherry anywhere in this part of Western Arkansas.

Neutral Breezymeadow On Jan 31, 2006, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

If I didn't have horses, I would probably not dislike this native Virginia tree as I do. They are EVERYWHERE here, & the fact that the wilted leaves, when eaten, & which blow down easily during summer storms, can sicken & kill livestock within a very short period of time, makes it difficult for me to feel positive about it.

That said, the small slightly bitter cherries are wildlife magnets, & during the summer as they ripen, the trees here are not only full of a vast variety of birds (Red-Bellied Woodpeckers & Catbirds in most abundance), but the fox & skunk scat I find about is always filled with wild cherry pits.

I also recall from my childhood, my father picking the tiny black fully-ripe cherries & steeping them in gin & vodka for fruity cocktails.

Negative raisedbedbob On Jan 30, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Native to this zone, this tree is common here. As others have noted, it is brittle and attracts all sorts of pests. I wouldn't erradicate them, but I wouldn't plant one either.

Positive grikdog On Aug 14, 2005, grikdog from St. Paul, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

I love the bark on this tree. Sometimes it looks almost black. It isn't common in St. Paul but I see it occaisionally.

Neutral Toxicodendron On Jan 22, 2005, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

Although this is a good tree for wildlife and makes wonderful firewood and furniture, I dislike it because I get literally thousands of seedlings each spring to pull out or spray with herbicide. Do not locate near your flower beds or vegetable garden for this reason. In the woods, the seedlings can choke out other types of vegetation, but if there is dense shade, most of them will die off naturally.

Neutral escambiaguy On Jan 21, 2005, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

These trees are very common in my area.I have alot of them on my property.They are fast growing and somewhat weedy.These trees get very tall and slender.The wood although pretty,is very brittle.Even in mild storms the trunks can break right in the middle of the tree.

Positive melody On Jan 1, 2005, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

This tree can get quite large...up to 80'. My aunt had one that was at least that tall, a huge tree that produced vast amounts of fruit.

The wood is valuable as lumber and furniture, but ,as stated above, the tent caterpillars are kind of gross. Be sure to plant away from walkways and gutters and give it plenty of room.

I like this provides food for wildlife and is a nice shade tree when fully grown. The berries make a nice jelly.

The branches give off a distinct smell when broken and young growth is smooth and reddish.

Neutral TREEHUGR On Dec 26, 2004, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Listed a good plant for fall/winter color in florida.
Pops up in old fields and usually wet disturbed sites.

Negative Kelli On Mar 16, 2004, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

My parents had one of these trees and I always gave it wide berth because of the tent caterpillars and fall webworms, which I could not stand. My dad always said that it was a dirty tree, though he said that wild cherry lumber is valuable for making furniture.

Neutral lupinelover On Apr 26, 2002, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Roots of this tree contain cyanide that is mildly poisonous to other types of plants, similar to juglone from black walnut. Tree is favorite of Eastern tent caterpillar.

Neutral activex On Feb 2, 2002, activex wrote:

The cherry tree is a widely favored species. From the beautiful spring blossoms to the desirable wood of this species is the more favorable member of the rose family. The bark of this tree is also used in cough syrups. (Apples and plums also belong to the rose family.)

The Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) is not so favorable to cattle and dairy farmers because when the leaves fall from the tree and decomposes, it produces glucose and cyanic acid which is highly toxic to cattle and some other farm animals.

What to look for: The tree is tall with an oblong elliptical crown. Leaves are finely saw-toothed, shiny dark green above, lighter below with 1 or 2 dark red glands at the base..

Habitat: Hardwood forests with moist soils. Found sometimes in stands.

Size: 60 - 80 feet tall. Leaves 2 - 6 inches long.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Atmore, Alabama
Gaylesville, Alabama
Saraland, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Huntington, Arkansas
Morrilton, Arkansas
Bartow, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Hampton, Florida
Land O' Lakes, Florida
Umatilla, Florida
Indianapolis, Indiana
Valparaiso, Indiana
Wabash, Indiana
Benton, Kentucky
Clermont, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Nicholasville, Kentucky
Paris, Kentucky
Shepherdsville, Kentucky
Smiths Grove, Kentucky
Versailles, Kentucky
Farmerville, Louisiana
Hammond, Louisiana
Brookeville, Maryland
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Calumet, Michigan
Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Saucier, Mississippi
Aurora, Missouri
Cole Camp, Missouri
Piedmont, Missouri
Collingswood, New Jersey
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Binghamton, New York
Star, North Carolina
Glouster, Ohio
Hilliard, Ohio
Vinton, Ohio
Jay, Oklahoma
Irwin, Pennsylvania
Laurens, South Carolina
Pelzer, South Carolina
Christiana, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Lufkin, Texas
Sacul, Texas
Wytheville, Virginia
Grand Mound, Washington
Elkins, West Virginia
Elmwood, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

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