Prunus serotina

black cherry, black chokecherry, rum cherry, wild black cherry


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Attachment


Leaf Margin

crenate, serrate

Leaf Type


Leaf Shape

oblong, lanceolate, ovate

Growth Form

shrub, tree

Flower Color


Flower Month

March - May

Height (meters)

26.0 - 30.0

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Leaf Retention


Wetland Class


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Inner bark aromatic. Leaves with broad hairy midrib beneath. Racemes on branch ends and > 3 cm long.

Animal Use

Many song birds use the fruit available in late spring to early summer.

Natural History

The Acadian French name for this tree is "merisier," the traditional French name for the cherry tree (Holmes 1990). The cherries are used by Acadians to make "cherry bounce," a strong liqueur. They also used the bark to make cough medicine. Birds eating the fallen fruit are thought to become intoxicated, fluttering and stumbling around. Black cherry is an early forest succession species that grows along fencerows and in open areas, wherever there are bird perches. It occurs throughout most of the eastern and southern United States. The wood is highly prized for lumber (Medsger 1966).


Woods, fence rows, and old fields.

Plant Uses

Black cherry is still and strong, with high resistance to shock, but is only moderately hard and heavy. Black cherry wood stays in place well after seasoning, and is comparatively free from checking and warping. It is difficult to work with hand tools, but has excellent bending strength. It can be glued satisfactorily. Nearly all black cherry harvested is sawed into lumber that is re-manufactured into a variety of valuable products. Some of the highest-quality furniture on the market is made from solid cherry wood. It is also made into veneers that utilize and display the exceptionally attractive color and grain on less-expensive furniture. Because it is very stable after seasoning, it is preferred for use as backing blocks for electrotype plates and in pattern-making. It is also used for woodenware, novelties, and interior finishes for buildings. Lower grades may be used for the interior parts of furniture, and for molding and trim.