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How to Identify Wild Cherry Trees

By John Lindell ; Updated September 21, 2017

The wild cherry (Prunus Serotina), also known as black cherry, has a geographic distribution from Maine to Florida in the United States and grows as far west as Oklahoma and Minnesota. Wild cherry is a common tree in open fields, according to the Ohio Department of Natural website and a species that grows rapidly. Valued for its fine wood, wild cherry also provides nourishment for wildlife in the form of the fruit it produces. You can look at a wild cherry and identify it as such by knowing what specifics for which to search.

Look for a tree capable of being as tall as 90 feet but typically within the range of 30 to 60 feet tall. Wild cherry has a crown of branches that is about 35 to 50 feet wide and the branches on the older trees are dense towards the top of the tree.

Examine the leaves of wild cherry, looking for them to be between 2 and 5 inches in length, elliptical and a dark green color. Feel the edges and notice the minute teeth, or serrations, that exist on them all. In autumn, these dark green leaves will change into a combination of green, yellow and orange colors.

Inspect the white flowers of wild cherry trees, which emerge in May on long structures called racemes. Measure the flowers, which are quite fragrant, and you will see that they are from 4 to 6 inches long.

Study the bark of the wild cherry tree, looking for a blackish scaly bark on older trees and a smoother red-brown bark on younger specimens. The black bark of an established wild cherry is easily visible in the winter months, standing out among the other trees in the woods or fields. The young wild cherry tree possesses bark with horizontal line on it called lenticels.

Check the wild cherry tree for its fruit, which ripens to maturity by August. The cherries are a third of an inch across, a reddish-purple color and edible for birds, small mammals and people. The cherries that escape the attention of wildlife and remain on the tree will eventually turn black.

 

Tip

  • Search for the wild cherry in the early spring to improve your chances of identifying one. The wild cherry is one of the first species in its range to develop leaves.

About the Author

 

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.