The native American black cherry tree (Prunus serotina) grows 100 feet in height with a ramrod-straight trunk. The tree produces 6-inch clusters of very fragrant white flowers in the spring. As the flowers burst forth, the tree's elongated brilliant green foliage begins to unfurl. Leaves are up to 5 inches in length. The dark red cherries are almost black in appearance and cover the tree in the late spring. Each cherry contains one tiny seed. The taste is slightly bitter but enjoyed by birds and mammals.
The black cherry tree enjoys being planted in full sunlight. It will not survive in shady conditions. The trees are vigorous growers and can attain up to 5 feet of growth per year.
The black cherry tree enjoys moist soil conditions. It will not tolerate standing water around its roots or an extended period of drought. The tree prefers to have 80 inches of rain per year. When planting a young tree apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch around the tree's base to help the soil retain moisture during the heat of the summer.
The trees can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions but they prefer soil with a high organic content. If soil lacks organic matter, add abundant peat moss or aged manure prior to planting a black cherry tree.
Hand pick cherries in the late summer to early fall when they appear almost black. The cherries are not favored for eating right out of hand, but they are widely used in jams and jellies.
The black cherry tree is easily grown from seeds. The seeds must undergo up to four months of cold stratification prior to planting for germination to occur. This can be obtained by refrigerating the seeds.
Each spring, tent caterpillars often infect the black cherry tree. The caterpillars consume the foliage but do no long term damage to the tree. They are an ideal food source for birds and disappear when summer arrives.