North America is home to several varieties of native wild cherry trees, including chokecherries, pin cherries, sand cherries and black cherries. Wild birds depend on native cherries trees for food in the summer, and butterflies and other insects visit the blossoms in the spring for nectar. Black cherries (Prunus serotina) are often harvested by humans for their wood, which is used in furniture making or for veneer. To identify black cherry trees, pay attention to environment, leaves, bark, flowers and fruit.
Consider your location. Wild black cherry trees naturally grow in eastern North America, from east Texas up through Ontario, over to New England and down to northern Florida. However, black cherry trees may be planted in gardens in other parts of the world.
Examine the surrounding environment. Black cherries like cool and moist soil. They are sometimes found near streams, but generally prefer uplands. Look for black cherries in forests that support other cherries, as well as maple, oak, white pine or hemlock.
Assess the height and shape. Other wild cherries top off around 30 feet tall, while black cherries can reach heights up to 90 feet and up to 50 feet wide. Black cherry trees have an oval shape with long, pendulous limbs.
Look at the leaves. Black cherry leaves are 2 to 5 inches long and alternate on the stem. The dark green leaves become yellow or orange in the fall.
Examine the bark. Black cherry trunks have grayish-brown bark that is scaly or deeply textured.
Look at the flowers or fruit. In the spring, black cherries produce fragrant white blossoms in elongated racemes up to 6 inches long. The fruit of the black cherry starts out red and ripens to purple or black. Birds readily eat black cherries. Humans might find them a little tart, but the fruit can be pitted and cooked down with sugar to make jam, syrup and preserves.