How to Identify a Black Cherry Tree


The black cherry tree (Prunus serotina) is a deciduous tree that can grow in a wide range of climates. The black cherry is found growing in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9, tolerating winter temperatures as cold as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit. This fast-growing tree attracts many different species of birds and mammals, which enjoy eating its cherries and seeds. The black cherry is a wild-growing tree found across North America, prolifically spreading by seed.

Step 1

Identify the black cherry tree by its size and shape. The black cherry tree has a symmetrical canopy shape when it's young and develops an irregular-shaped crown when it matures, growing up to 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide.

Step 2

Study the leaves to identify the black cherry tree. Emerging in early spring, the leaves are narrow, less than 5 inches long and non-lobed, with finely serrated leaf edges. The black cherry's leaves are dark green on the upper surfaces and light green on the undersides, turning greenish, yellow and orange in fall.

Step 3

Look at how the leaves are arranged along the branches. The black cherry tree's leaves are arranged in an alternating fashion instead of opposite each other in pairs.

Step 4

Look at the flowers to make the identification. The black cherry tree blooms during mid-spring in slightly scented, showy white flowers that grow in long, cylindrical clusters.

Step 5

Identify the tree by its fruits. The cherries are round, about 1/2 inch in diameter, loosely clustered and turn from red or purple to black as they mature.

Step 6

Notice where the tree is growing to identify the black cherry. Native to eastern and midwestern North America, the black cherry tree grows best in fertile, deep and moist but well-draining soils, often in forest, woodlands, open fields and along fences.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't confuse the black cherry tree with the black Tartarian cherry (Prunus avium), both of which produce blackish fruits. Unlike the black cherry tree, the black Tartarian grows to only 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide at maturity, with heart-shaped, 1-inch-diameter fruits and a pyramidal canopy shape.


  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
  • Arbor Day Foundation: Cherry, Black Tartarian -- Prunus avium

Who Can Help

  • Black Cherry
Keywords: identify Prunus serotina, black cherry tree, black cherry identification

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.