Black cherry (Prunus serotina)

Black cherry photograph; ? MN DNR, Welby Smith


Height 30' to 60', diameter up to 24"; in the forest has a long clear trunk with little tapering; in the open, trunk is short with many branches and an irregular spreading crown.


On young trunk smooth and bright, reddish brown, marked by conspicuous narrow, white horizontal lines, has bitter almond taste; on older trunks, thin, dark brown, rough, and broken into thick, irregular plates.


Simple, alternate on stem, length 2" to 6", oval or pointedly lance shaped with finely toothed margins; thick, shiny above, paler below; yellow to yellowish red in autumn.

Fruit (seed)

Drooping clusters of pea-sized cherries, dark red to nearly black; edible but somewhat tart; ripens in late summer; has some medicinal value.


Southern and central Minnesota; shade tolerant when young, shade intolerant when mature; moderately fast growing.