Prunus pensylvanica (Pin Cherry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Fire Cherry
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; open woods, forest edges and openings
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:20 to 35 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: flat

[photo of flowers] Numerous flat to convex clusters from buds at branch tips and short lateral branches, each cluster a 3 to 7-flowered umbel (stalks all arising from the same point) or short raceme, and emerging with the leaves in spring. Flowers are about ½ inch across with 5 white, round to egg shaped petals with a single slender style and a spray of slender, white, yellow-tipped stamens in the center.

[photo of reflexed sepals] The 5 sepals are lance-oblong, about 1/3 the length of the petals, blunt at the tip and spreading or reflexed downward. Edges lack glandular teeth; the inner and outer surfaces are smooth. Flower stalks are slender and hairless.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, the blade variable from oval-elliptic to lance-oblong, 2 to 3½ inches long and ¾ to 1½ inches wide, tapered to a pointed tip, tapered or rounded at the base, on a ½ to ¾ inch stalk with a pair of glands near the leaf blade. The upper surface is dark green and shiny, the lower surface lighter and smooth or with hairs along the veins. Edges have shallow, rounded teeth. Twigs are red to reddish brown, shiny smooth or occasionally sparsely hairy with a flaky, waxy cuticle.

[photo of bark on a mature tree] Branches are spreading to ascending, the bark shiny reddish brown to gray with conspicuous horizontal lenticels (pores). Bark peels in horizontal strips. The trunk can be up to 6½ inch diameter at breast height.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a shiny, bright red drupe, about ¼ inch in diameter with a single hard seed inside.


Pin Cherry is an understory tree common throughout Minnesota forest lands. It is intolerant of shade but grows quickly after logging, fires or storms have thinned or removed the canopy, or along road or powerline corridors. The flowers are clustered similarly to both American Plum (Prunus americana) and Canada Plum (Prunus nigra), both of which have only 1 to 4 flowers in an umbel, and bark of mature trees/shrubs that is gray and peeling.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Carlton, Lake and Pine counties.


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

Posted by: stephanie t - Crow Wing Township
on: 2016-05-20 22:43:49

I think I have a few of these in my yard, but Im having difficulty with the ID. Can you assist please?

Posted by: Tim O - Maple Plain
on: 2017-08-01 13:25:10

Can the wood of the Pin Cherry be used in smoking meat products?

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