People have prized cherry trees for hundreds of years. Some trees are valued for the tart or sweet fruits produced. Others appreciate the aesthetic value they bring to the landscape, while still others make use of the wood produced by the trunk and limbs. Whatever the reason, cherry trees are a natural resource with a wealth of uses.
Cherry trees produce two types of fruit: sour cherries and sweet cherries. Sour cherries are favored for baking while sweet cherries are usually used for fresh eating. They can be preserved through canning, freezing and dehydrating. Cherries are popular with birds and other wildlife. Some are made into juice and others simply adorn desserts such as banana splits, pies and cakes. Some blossoms, particularly of the Yoshino cherry tree, are pickled and used to make tea.
Cherries are high in antioxidants and flavonoids, which help fight cancer, arthritis and heart disease. In addition, a study done at the University of Vermont in association with colleagues from Cornell University indicate that the juice from tart cherries was shown to reduce the amount of muscle pain experienced from muscle-damaging exercise. A separate study by the University of Michigan found that rats that ingested powdered tart cherries had lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar and less fat stored in their livers. This has implications for controlling heart disease and diabetes.
People use cherry trees for all sorts of landscaping options. Certain low-growing varieties are sometimes used as hedges. Traditional cherry trees show up in home orchards and as shade trees. Ornamental varieties such as weeping cherry trees are often the focal point of gardens. Many cherry trees are available in dwarf sizes, making them adaptable to locations like indoor malls and in plaza projects like parks, roadway medians and along streets. Whether a single tree is used or a grouping, the pink blossoms make a colorful statement in the springtime.
Cherry wood is known for its strong aroma and unique colors. It is particularly dense, making it difficult to maintain a high shine without frequent maintenance. Because of its colors and markings, it is frequently used for cabinets and hardwood floors. Cherry wood is also used to make upscale pieces of furniture such as desks and bed headboards.
Some species of butterflies and moths, particularly wild varieties, use cherry trees as shelter. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly and the scalloped sallow moth use the leaves as food as a caterpillar and the nectar of the blossoms as an adult. Both use the tree as a shelter, as does the Wild Cherry sphinx moth. Most birds that nest in trees will choose a cherry tree as readily as any other tree.