Information on Wild Black Cherry Trees


The black cherry tree (prunus serotina) grows in Central America, Mexico and parts of the eastern United States. The tree can easily grow to a height of 80 feet with a spread of 50 feet. The tree is often referred to as the rum cherry or the wild black cherry. The wild black cherry grows prevalently in lowlands, uplands and along stream beds in full to partial sun. It is extremely aggressive and fast growing. The tree will easily grow 5 feet per year.

Black Cherry Tree Blossoms

Each spring the black cherry tree blossoms in a riot of white fragrant flowers. The flowers appear at the same time that the foliage sprouts out. They hang in pendulous clusters that bees adore. After the blossoms are spent large, drooping clusters of berries will begin to form.

Black Cherry Tree Fruit

The fruit of the black cherry is quite bitter and inedible. It can be used successfully in jams, jellies and juices. Several brands of whiskey and brandy are also flavored using the fruit. The fruit is adored by song birds and many other wildlife species. The berries are small and first appear green, then red and finally a full black in color as they ripen.

Black Cherry Leaves

The foliage of the wild black cherry tree is poisonous to livestock, humans and other animals if consumed. The leaves contain a substance known as prunasin. When the leaves are crushed the prunasin is converted and changed to hydrogen cyanide (HCN). This substance is highly toxic if consumed. It is theorized that these toxic leaves protect the tree against herbivore animals that might consume the foliage.

Black Cherry Wood

The wood of the black cherry tree coveted by the timber industry, where it is used in furniture, gun stocks, musical instruments and veneer manufacturing. The lumber produced is a brilliant red in color. The bark of an adult black cherry tree is quite rough and appears scaly. A young tree has no scales and smooth bark. The bark is commonly used in a wide variety of cough syrups.


The black cherry tree is a relatively healthy and fast-growing tree. It is often plagued by mild infestations of the eastern tent caterpillar and fall web worm. But the infestations are usually so mild the tree will require no treatment to remove the pests.

Keywords: black cherry tree, cherry wood, prunasin, rum cherry, wild cherry, hydrogen cyanide

About this Author

Based in Oregon, Kimberly has been a freelance writer since 2006. She writes for numerous online publications. Her writing has a strong focus on home improvement, gardening, parenting, pets and travel. She has spent most of her life working as a veterinarian technician, landscape adviser and owned a pet boarding, training and grooming facility in Florida