The black cherry tree (Prunus serotina), also known as the wild cherry or wild rum cherry, is native to the eastern region of North America as well as to Mexico and Central America. It is one of the latest blooming of all of the cherry trees, but the flowers are well worth waiting for. The tree is a favorite of butterflies, songbirds, ruffed and sharp-tailed grouse, bobwhite, pheasant, raccoon, red fox, whitetail deer, cottontail rabbit and gray squirrel.
The black cherry tree is one of the largest of all of the cherry tree species, eventually reaching a height of 50 to 80 feet with branches that can spread out to a width of 20 to 50 feet. It is a deciduous tree, one where the leaves change color in the fall and drop off in the winter. The tree produces a profusion of fragrant white flowers in the spring at the same time as the leaves appear. The leaves turn yellow and the flowers drop off, leaving clusters of red cherries behind that turn black as they age. The tree can live to from 150 to 200 years of age.
The black cherry tree is hardy in planting zones 3-9, all but the one hottest planting zone in the continuous United States (which is in southern Florida and southern California).
The black cherry tree likes full sun--at least 6 hours of sunshine a day--and moist, but not wet, soil. Dry soil will not work either. It can take sandy and gravelly soil in addition to a rich loam.
The fruit is too bitter to be eaten right off the tree, but it is used to make jams and jellies and as a flavoring for certain liquors. The wood is hard with a red/brown color that is used to make furniture, cabinets, gunstocks and musical instruments. The tree is frequently used as a landscaping tree on large properties.
The fruit will permanently stain concrete and patio stones. It can also come under attack from the Eastern tent caterpillar, Japanese beetle and leafrollers. It is also prone to damage from fungal diseases: black knot, gray mold and verticillium wilt. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a wood pecker that feeds on the tree in both the north and the south. It can do enough damage to kill the tree.