black cherry

(Prunus serotina var. serotina)

Conservation Status
black cherry
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Black cherry is a small to medium-sized, moderately fast-growing, deciduous tree. It rises on a single stem from a shallow, spreading root system and occasional 36 to 48 long sinker roots. Most roots are within 24 of the soil surface. It is not colonial. It is the largest member of the Prunus family. In the eastern part of its range it is a large, well-formed tree and is commonly up to 129 in height and 48 in diameter at breast height. In Minnesota it is usually a small to medium sized tree, 40 to 60 tall and up to 24 in diameter. On good sites it can reach 80 or more in height but is rarely more than 100 tall. It is moderately long-lived, often reaching 150 years of age, with older individuals up to 200 years old.

The trunk is slender, sinuous, little tapered, and often crooked. In the forest it develops a long, straight, branch-free bole and a smallish, rounded, taller than wide crown. On open sites the bole is shorter and the crown is broad and irregular. The branches are arching with drooping tips.

The bark on young trees is smooth and dark reddish-brown, with numerous conspicuous, grayish, horizontal lines (lenticels). As it ages the bark turns light grayish-brown. On mature trees the bark remains thin and is broken into squarish, flat scales that curl outward at the sides. They have the appearance of burnt potato chips. The exposed bark beneath the curled edges is reddish-brown. As the tree ages the scales break off revealing smaller, darker scales beneath. Bark on older trees thicker but still relatively thin and is broken into layers of reddish-brown to blackish scales. The scales are small and squarish, lack lenticels, and have upturned edges. They have the appearance of burnt corn flakes. The very dark, blackish, very scaly bark makes for easy identification of this tree in all seasons.

First-year twigs are slender, hairless, and green to reddish, soon becoming dark reddish-brown. Second-year twigs are grayish-brown with round to oval lenticels and tiny black spots. They have an outer grayish skin that wears off. When scratched the twigs have a bitter almond odor and taste.

Buds are reddish-gray, sharply pointed, and small, only about long. They are held slightly away from the twig. They are covered with about 10 scales. The scales are pointed, glossy, bright reddish-brown at the tip, and green at the base. The leaf scars are small, semi-circular, raised and have 3 bundle scars. The pith is solid.

The leaves are alternate, usually oblong elliptical, sometimes somewhat egg-shaped, 2¼ to 4¾long, and 1 to 2 wide. They are 2 to 3 times as long as wide. They are attached to the twig on to long leaf stalks. The leaf stalk is usually hairless and has 1 or a few stalkless glands near the point where the blade attaches to the stalk. The blade is tapered or rounded at the base and tapers to a point at the tip with concave sides along the tip. There is a prominent midrib and usually 15 or more pairs of inconspicuous lateral veins. The upper surface is dark green, shiny, and hairless. The lower surface is pale green and hairless except for a narrow patch of rust-colored hairs along both sides of the midvein on the lower ½ or of the blade. The margins are finely, singly toothed. The teeth are short, inward-curved, and tipped with a minute, hard, gland-like thickening. The leaves turn yellow to yellowish-red in autumn.

The inflorescence is a dense, elongated, unbranched cluster (raceme) of 20 to 60 flowers at the end of short, leafy shoots of the current season. The racemes are cylinder shaped, 3 to 6 long, and about ¾wide. Each flower is on a hairless, to 5 16 long stalk.

The flowers are to in diameter. They open in mid-May to mid-June when the leaves reach full size. There are 5 sepals, 5 petals, 15 to 22 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals are green and 1 64 to 1 32 long. The petals are white, 1 16 to long, and conspicuously narrowed at the base (clawed). The claw is about 1 32 long. The expanded portion of the petal is circular, cupped, and about wide. The stamens have long, translucent green filaments and yellow anthers.

The fruit is a fleshy, one-seeded, spherical or inversely egg-shaped, ¼ to 7 16 in diameter drupe. It is green at first, red later in the season, and finally dark reddish-black when it matures in early August to early September. The sepals persist in fruit. The ripe fruit is astringent but edible when ripe.




40 to 80




The champion black cherry in Minnesota is on private property near St. Peter, in Nicollet County. In 2019 it was measured at 120 tall and 99 in circumference (31½ in diameter).


Flower Color




Similar Species


Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. virginiana) is usually a shrub with multiple stems. The leaves are wider, 1½ to 2 times as long as wide. The lower leaf surface has whitish or yellowish hairs in the axils of the lateral veins. The teeth on the margins are straight, not curved inward. They have a sharp tip with no gland-like thickening. The sepals do not persist in fruit.


Dry to moderate moisture. Well-drained, upland forests.




Mid-May to mid-June


Faunal Associations


Black cherry is a host for eastern tiger swallowtail.


Pests and Diseases


Black cherry finger gall mite (Eriophyes cerasicrumena) causes a small, narrow, erect, finger-like gall on the upper side of leaves. When present, there are a few to many galls on each infected leaf.

Cherry Leaf Spot (Blumeriella jaapii) causes small purple spots on the leaves. Later, the spots turn brown, separate from the green tissue, and drop off, leaving a “shot hole”. Eventually, the infected leaf turns yellows and falls off.

Rust Fungus (Tranzschelia pruni-spinosae var. americana)




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Rosales (roses, elms, figs, and allies)  


Rosaceae (rose)  
  Subfamily Amygdaloideae  
  Tribe Amygdaleae  


Prunus (plums, cherries, and allies)  
  Subgenus Padus  
  Section Laurocerasus  

Subordinate Taxa






Padus virginiana

Prunus serotina ssp. eximia

Prunus serotina var. eximia


Common Names


black cherry

rum cherry

wild black cherry













The upper angle where a branch, stem, leaf stalk, or vein diverges.



A stalk-like narrowed base of some petals and sepals.



A fleshy fruit with a single hard, stone-like core, like a cherry or peach.



On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.



The spongy cells in the center of the stem.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

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Ripening fruit of a black cherry, prunus serotina, August 2019, Freeborn County, Minnesota

    black cherry      

Twin trunks, black cherry on left, bur oak on right

    bur oak (var. macrocarpa) and black cherry      

Massive trunk on an old growth black cherry in a wood near Faribault, MN

    black cherry      


    black cherry      


    black cherry      


    black cherry   black cherry  


    black cherry   black cherry  
    black cherry      


    black cherry   black cherry  

Early Spring

    black cherry   black cherry  



  Black Cherry Tree (Prunus serotina)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Black Cherry Tree (Prunus serotina)  
  Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Jim Hamilton

Uploaded on Jun 18, 2008

Brief species presentation on black cherry (Prunus serotina)




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Other Videos
  Black Cherry ( Prunus serotina ) identification video

Published on Sep 30, 2012

Black Cherry ( Prunus serotina ) identification video.

  Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Published on Aug 1, 2012

Commonly used by our forefathers as a flavoring in rum concoctions as well as in cough syrup and jellies, the black cherry tree is a favorite to both man and game. After the attractive cluster of small white flowers bloom in the spring, this tree wastes no time bearing fruit. Having clusters of cherries in early summer, it is one of the earliest producers in the wild.

Almost all birds and most mammals, especially black bear, fox and squirrels can be found near this tree consuming the small, tasty cherries. The black cherry tree has a rapid growth rate and produces fruit at a young age. Another advantage is the high germination rate. The seed that will be spread around by the birds and other critters will quickly grow into many young scrumptious seedlings that deer will be more than happy to browse down for you.

If you are looking for something to quickly attract all forms of wildlife to areas of your property, add a couple of these to your list. Just be careful if you plant close to your camp, with all those cherries lying on the ground you may wind up with cherry colored footprints all over your porch.

  Black Cherry Tree
leoni pizzillo

Published on Sep 24, 2012

Identifying the Black Cherry Tree (Prunus Serotina )




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Location: Minneapolis

I just cut down a Chinese black cherry tree in my back yard with a 108” circumference about 2’ above the ground.

August 2019

Location: Freeborn County, Minnesota

Ripening fruit of a black cherry, prunus serotina

black cherry  

Twin trunks, black cherry on left, bur oak on right

bur oak (var. macrocarpa) and black cherry  

Location: near Faribault, MN

Massive trunk on an old growth black cherry in a wood near Faribault, MN

black cherry  

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Badoura Jack Pine Woodland SNA

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Carley State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Highlands WMA, South Unit

Carver Park Reserve

Chamberlain Woods SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chimney Rock SNA

Clear Lake SNA

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Clinton Falls Dwarf Trout Lily SNA

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Crystal Spring SNA

Dodge Nature Center

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Elm Creek Park Reserve

Falls Creek SNA

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Greenleaf Lake SRA

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Hyland Lake Park Reserve

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Keller Regional Park

King’s and Queen’s Bluff SNA

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Pin Oak Prairie SNA

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Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

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