Prunus serotina (Black Cherry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, shade; hardwood forest
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:50 to 100 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Numerous nodding, cylindrical racemes 2 to 4½ inches long, at the tips and small lateral shoots of branches, each with 20 to 60 short-stalked flowers. Flowers are about 1/3 inch across with 5 white, round petals, a reddish orange center with a ring of yellow tipped stamens around a single central style. The 5 sepals are 1/3 or less the length of the petals, oblong to triangular, with glands or glandular serrations along the edges. Flower stalks are slender and hairless.

Leaves and bark: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, the blade elliptical to somewhat oblong or oval, 2½ to 4½ inches long and to 1 to 2 inches wide, somewhat abruptly tapered to a sharp point, rounded at the base, on a stalk up to about 1 inch long with 1 to several glands near the blade. The upper surface is dark green and shiny, the lower surface lighter and mostly smooth or with hairs along the mid-vein near the base, the hairs white on young leaves becoming rusty colored as they mature. Edges have fine blunt teeth with dark, gland-like tips.

[photo of twig] Twigs are reddish brown to gray, shiny smooth, developing a flaky, waxy cuticle, occasionally a few fleeting hairs are near the base.

[photo of bark] Bark is grayish brown, smooth with conspicuous horizontal pores (lenticels), becoming dark gray to black with coarse scaly plates peeling upward around the edges, often described as resembling burnt potato chips. The trunk can typically get up to just over 24 inches in diameter at breast height.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a shiny, round drupe, dark reddish purple to nearly black, around 1/3 inch in diameter with a single hard seed inside. The sepals typically persist until the stalk drops off.


Black Cherry is Minnesota largest Prunus species, occupying the canopy throughout Minnesota's central and southeastern forests. Semi shade tolerant it can persist as a small understory tree amongst more open canopies and, in the absence of fire, can establish in open fields and disturbed habitats via the spread of its seeds by birds. It is the second most prized hardwood for cabinetry after black walnut. While it does not sucker heavily from the roots like other native cherries, it is rarely used in the landscape, being considered somewhat weedy and also moderately susceptible to the fungal disease black knot, which can disfigure its shape. A small Black Cherry tree may be confused with Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), which has similar cylindrical flower clusters but rarely grows taller than 20 feet in Minnesota, has proportionately broader leaves, sepals that wither away as fruit matures, hairs on the leaf underside in the vein axils, and relatively smooth bark that may become furrowed but lacks the peeling plates of Black Cherry.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Zeb - Clay County
on: 2015-07-31 16:53:29

Growing in abandoned pastures and meadows near Rollag, Minnesota. Beautiful color in the fall.

Posted by: David - Champlin
on: 2015-09-13 20:39:00

After reading this I am convinced the tree in my backyard is a black cherry tree and not a chokecherry as I have always thought. It is over 20 years old and is at least 20 feet tall. The birds do not like the fruit. Thank you for the information.

Posted by: Karen - Otte Tail Co
on: 2016-05-30 17:28:43

Is this what some people call pig cherries?? Ripen along with chokecherries but taste bad when raw?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-05-30 19:45:19

Karen, maybe you're thinking of pin cherry.

Posted by: Ben H - St. Paul
on: 2017-08-03 15:48:31

Who says this is the second most prized hardwood! I prefer figured hard maple to cherry and walnut!

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