Botanical Name : Prunus avium
Species: P. avium
Synonyms: Cerasus nigra. C. sylvestris.
Common Names: Wild cherry, Sweet cherry, or Gean
Habitat : Prunus avium is native to Europe, Anatolia, Maghreb, and western Asia, from the British Isles south to Morocco and Tunisia, north to the Trondheimsfjord region in Norway and east to the Caucasus and northern Iran, with a small isolated population in the western Himalaya. The species is widely cultivated in other regions and has become naturalized in North America and Australia. It grows in better soils in hedgerows and woods, especially in beech woods.
Prunus avium is a deciduous tree growing to 15–32 m (49–105 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in diameter. Young trees show strong apical dominance with a straight trunk and symmetrical conical crown, becoming rounded to irregular on old trees. The bark is smooth purplish-brown with prominent horizontal grey-brown lenticels on young trees, becoming thick dark blackish-brown and fissured on old trees. The leaves are alternate, simple ovoid-acute, 7–14 cm (2.8–5.5 in) long and 4–7 cm (1.6–2.8 in) broad, glabrous matt or sub-shiny green above, variably finely downy beneath, with a serrated margin and an acuminate tip, with a green or reddish petiole 2–3.5 cm (0.79–1.38 in) long bearing two to five small red glands. The tip of each serrated edge of the leaves also bear small red glands. In autumn, the leaves turn orange, pink or red before falling. The flowers are produced in early spring at the same time as the new leaves, borne in corymbs of two to six together, each flower pendent on a 2–5 cm (0.79–1.97 in) peduncle, 2.5–3.5 cm (0.98–1.38 in) in diameter, with five pure white petals, yellowish stamens, and a superior ovary; they are hermaphroditic, and pollinated by bees. The ovary contains two ovules, only one of which becomes the seed. The fruit is a drupe 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter (larger in some cultivated selections), bright red to dark purple when mature in midsummer, edible, variably sweet to somewhat astringent and bitter to eat fresh. Each fruit contains a single hard-shelled stone 8–12 mm long, 7–10 mm wide and 6–8 mm thick, grooved along the flattest edge; the seed (kernel) inside the stone is 6–8 mm long.
Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.
The fruit are readily eaten by numerous kinds of birds and mammals, which digest the fruit flesh and disperse the seeds in their droppings. Some rodents, and a few birds (notably the hawfinch), also crack open the stones to eat the kernel inside. All parts of the plant except for the ripe fruit are slightly toxic, containing cyanogenic glycosides.
It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is not self-fertile.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.
Landscape Uses:Espalier. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil. Succeeds in light shade but fruits better in a sunny position. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone. Prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present. A very ornamental plant, it is fast growing on deep moist soils but is shallow rooting. Trees cast a light shade and are themselves intolerant of heavy shade. They produce quite a lot of suckers and can form thickets, especially if the main trunk is felled. This species is a parent of many cultivated forms of sweet cherries, especially the black fruited forms. Where space is at a premium, or at the limits of their climatic range, sweet cherries can be grown against a wall. Most cultivars will grow well against a sunny south or west facing wall though east or north facing walls are not very suitable. The main problems with growing this species against a wall are firstly that it is usually completely self-sterile and so there needs to be space for at least two different cultivars, secondly it is very vigorous and so is difficult to keep within bounds. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged. An excellent tree for insects and the fruit is a good food source for birds. A bad companion for potatoes, making them more susceptible to potato blight, it also suppresses the growth of wheat. It also grows badly with plum trees, its roots giving out an antagonistic secretion. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus. Special Features:Edible, Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.
Seed – requires 2 – 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Division of suckers in the dormant season. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. Layering in spring.
Edible Parts: Fruit; Seed.
Fruit – raw or cooked. It can be sweet or bitter but it is not acid. The fruit can be cooked in pies etc or used to make preserves. The fruit contains about 78% water, 8.5 – 14% sugars. The fruit is about 20mm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seed – raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter – see the notes above on toxicity. An edible gum is obtained by wounding the bark.
Antitussive; Astringent; Diuretic; Tonic.
The fruit stalks are astringent, diuretic and tonic. A decoction is used in the treatment of cystitis, oedema, bronchial complaints, looseness of the bowels and anaemia. An aromatic resin can be obtained by making small incisions in the trunk. This has been used as an inhalant in the treatment of persistent coughs. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
Dye; Gum; Tannin; Wood.
A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. The bark usually only contains small amounts of tannin, but this sometimes rises to 16%. Wood – firm, compact, satiny grain. Used for turnery, furniture, instruments.
Known Hazards: Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.