Cherry trees, or Prunus Avium L. for sweet cherries and Prunus cerasus for sour cherries, are members of the rose family. They are a deciduous tree, which means they shed their leaves each fall. Cherry trees bear fruit in a range of colors from yellow to orange to light and dark reds. Trees bloom in the spring but may not produce blooms the first few years of life. The fruits can be either sweet or tart. Tree sizes vary from 6 feet to 30 feet depending on the variety. Very few are self-pollinators and need to be pollinated with different varieties of cherry trees
Identifying Cherry Trees
The bark has a reddish-brown hue that develops in rows or patches horizontally. Leaves grow to lengths of 2 to 6 inches and bear finely toothed edges.They vary from pale to dark green. The flowers usually have five petals, though some varieties have 10 or 20 petals. Typical cherry blossoms are white. Again, some varieties have other colors, such as pale yellow or light pink. Flowers can sometimes change color, budding as white and gradually shifting to pink over the course of several days. The fruit is small and round with an indentation at the top where the stem attaches.
Growing Conditions and Habitats
The cherry tree is adaptable to many soil types from alkaline to acidic but prefers well drained soils. They prefer full sun with up to 8 hours of sunshine each day. Cherry trees can handle droughts, though they don't like overly hot summers. A good, cold winter is important, but a late frost can be dangerous for cherry trees as it can damage early blooming flowers and prevent a crop from developing. The trees need a good amount of water during their early years of growth and during the fruiting period to swell the fruit. The cherry tree grows natively in Asia, Europe, North Africa and most of North America. A few cultivars even grow in arctic regions.
Caring for Cherry Trees
Other than watering as mentioned above, cherry trees will require fertilizing during the first few years to get them off to a good start, and pruning and pest and disease management. Pruning should be done before the new buds appear in the early spring. Remove only damaged or dead branches or those that sprout from the bottom, grow inward toward the center of the tree or rub against other branches. In the spring, a dormant oil fruit tree spray can be applied to help control pests. Fruit tree sprays can be applied during the growing period, too, but should be avoided close to harvesting time. Birds are a particular problem for cherry tree growers, and netting the trees is recommended to protect the crop.
Uses for Cherries
Cherries are tasty fresh or can be stored in a variety of ways. They can be pitted and frozen for later use in cooking. They can be pitted and dehydrated for use as a dry fruit or added to trail mixes. They are popular in pies, tarts, muffins and can be used to make jellies and jams. They can also be canned for later use.
Other Uses for Parts of Cherry Trees
Boiling the peduncles or flower stems in water creates a diuretic used to treat kidney pain, edema, dropsy, obesity and renal dysfunction. The tea can also be used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism and gout. The solution used topically is helpful in treating pimples and acne. The flowers are used to treat headaches, spasms, colds and can be used as an antiseptic. The wood from cherry trees is prized for furniture building and decorative moldings in homes. It also is quite aromatic when burned in the fireplace.