Black cherry is a deciduous tree native to North America, commonly found in pasture land, along riverbanks and in other areas where wet conditions prevail. The tree can grow to 90 feet tall and 50 feet wide and is the largest of the wild cherries. The reproductive cycle of the tree produces fragrant flowers and a fruit used in jams, jellies and wines.
Seed and Seedling
The tree begins its life as a seed. A certain amount of time must pass after the fruit ripens and the seed germinates. This can take three or more years to pass. If the seed falls in optimal conditions of soil, moisture, sun and climate, it will germinate. As the seed grows, it will first split the hard pit in which it is encased into two halves, then put out roots and begin to draw nutrients from the soil. The seed will then sprout leaves that will push up out of the soil. In the first 30 days the seedling will grow to 4 inches and will usually reach 28 inches in the first year.
As the plant grows, it will change from a young seedling to a sturdy, well-anchored sapling. It will develop quickly, adding more than 4 feet per year in new growth. Leaves will continue to form and branches will sprout from the central leader trunk. As a deciduous tree, each year the black cherry will lose its leaves, regaining them again in early spring.
When the tree reaches maturity, usually after 30 years or so, it will flower. In the spring, black cherry grows clusters of little white blossoms that are fragrant and showy. These contain the male part of the plant that produces pollen, called anthers, and the female part, called the ovary. The flowers are pollinated primarily by insects, especially species of bees. This fertilizes the flowers. Black cherry trees are long-lived and can continue to flower for up to 100 years.
The fertilized flowers will eventually form fruit. The fruit is round, reddish-purple, fleshy and bitter-tasting. Each fruit is about 1/2 inch across. They grow on the tree in loose clusters. Each fruit has a single stony pit in the center that holds one seed.
When the seeds are ripe, they usually fall from the tree naturally. This process allows for seedlings to form close to the parent tree, producing large stands of black cherry, over time. Other seeds are consumed by birds and other animals. These are eliminated in their droppings. The hard shell of the pit protect the seeds from being digested. Once the seeds fall to the ground, they germinate, beginning the life cycle over again.
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