Prunus avium - L.
Common Name Wild Cherry, Sweet cherry
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
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.
Habitats Better soils in hedgerows and woods, especially in beech woods[5, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.

Prunus avium Wild Cherry, Sweet cherry
Prunus avium Wild Cherry, Sweet cherry
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prunus avium is a deciduous Tree growing to 18 m (59ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. 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.

Cerasus nigra. C. sylvestris.

Woodland Garden Canopy;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Gum.

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 12, 13]. It can be sweet or bitter but it is not acid[11]. The fruit can be cooked in pies etc or used to make preserves. The fruit contains about 78% water, 8.5 - 14% sugars[74]. The fruit is about 20mm in diameter and contains one large seed[200]. 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[115, 183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antitussive;  Astringent;  Diuretic;  Tonic.

The fruit stalks are astringent, diuretic and tonic[4, 7, 238]. A decoction is used in the treatment of cystitis, oedema, bronchial complaints, looseness of the bowels and anaemia[4, 238]. An aromatic resin can be obtained by making small incisions in the trunk[7]. This has been used as an inhalant in the treatment of persistent coughs[7]. 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[238].


Other Uses
Dye;  Gum;  Tannin;  Wood.

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. The bark usually only contains small amounts of tannin, but this sometimes rises to 16%[223]. Wood - firm, compact, satiny grain. Used for turnery, furniture, instruments[46, 100, 115].
Cultivation details
Landscape Uses:Espalier. Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 11]. Succeeds in light shade but fruits better in a sunny position[11, 200]. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[11]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present[1]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is fast growing on deep moist soils[11] but is shallow rooting[98]. Trees cast a light shade and are themselves intolerant of heavy shade[186]. They produce quite a lot of suckers and can form thickets, especially if the main trunk is felled[186]. This species is a parent of many cultivated forms of sweet cherries[17, 34], especially the black fruited forms[11]. 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[219]. 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[186], secondly it is very vigorous and so is difficult to keep within bounds[219]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. An excellent tree for insects[24] and the fruit is a good food source for birds. A bad companion for potatoes, making them more susceptible to potato blight[201], it also suppresses the growth of wheat[18]. It also grows badly with plum trees, its roots giving out an antagonistic secretion[201]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. 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[200]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[200]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[113]. 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[11, 200]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame[200]. Division of suckers in the dormant season[98]. They can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. Layering in spring.
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Prunus africanaPygeum05
Prunus alabamensisAlabama Cherry21
Prunus alleghaniensisAllegheny Plum, Davis' plum31
Prunus americanaAmerican Plum, American Wild Plum, Wild Plum32
Prunus americana lanata 31
Prunus andersoniiDesert Peach22
Prunus angustifoliaChickasaw Plum, Watson's plum, Hally Jolivette Cherry31
Prunus angustifolia watsoniiSand Plum41
Prunus apetalaClove Cherry21
Prunus arabica 21
Prunus armeniacaApricot33
Prunus besserianaDwarf Almond21
Prunus besseyiWestern Sand Cherry41
Prunus bifrons 21
Prunus bokharensisBokhara Plum21
Prunus brigantinaBriançon Apricot41
Prunus buergeriana 21
Prunus campanulataTaiwan Cherry21
Prunus canescensGreyleaf Cherry31
Prunus capsica 21
Prunus carolinianaAmerican Cherry Laurel, Carolina laurelcherry, Laurel Cherry,21
Prunus cerasiferaCherry Plum, Myrobalan Plum, Newport Cherry Plum, Pissard Plum41
Prunus cerasifera divaricata 41
Prunus cerasoidesWild Himalayan Cherry22
Prunus cerasusSour Cherry12
Prunus cerasus austeraMorello Cherry31
Prunus cerasus capronianaKentish Red Cherry31
Prunus cerasus frutescensBush Sour Cherry31
Prunus cerasus marascaMaraschino Cherry31


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Readers comment
jane   Thu Jan 12 2006
Great information, and thanks. I have quite a few trees in the yard, and am unsure of the safety of composting them. Any thoughts?
richard Armitage   Sun Jul 2 2006
Usefull, more on cultivation please I am told: to transplant as many viable saplings will be found near mature tree, 1st bake root ball buy producing root ball aprox 0.5m diameter by using spade to seperate roots to depth about 0.3m in summer keep watered after this trauma, periodically spading to discourage roots escaping ball. Transpant in early winter December into well prepared site before any hard frost.
Sami Haag   Wed Apr 30 2008
Dear, I have new cherries trees, Do they like Water in Summer? How may years a cherry tree can live, maximum? I planted them on 600 Meters altitude (Mediterenean area) Lebanon it's 1800 feet in US size, we have Snow 2 times a year in the area, I planted the Cherries. Well, So it's not a very cold area and not very warm, Medium. My Cherries Trees are, Prunus Avium (Mahaleb) Variety: New Star Thanks for Help Do you have an idea about the Granny Smith apples Trees? Regards
   Tue Sep 2 2008
PLease could you tell me and help me to get rid of a black sticky residue on my steela eating cherry tee it appears tobe on the tops of the tree thank you for your help GERRY WHITE
cengiz öksüz   Mon Sep 29 2008
guten tag ich suchhe PRUNUS zaamen fuchr turkai bitte kone sie mier zagen wie das ich finden konen bitte informasyon
ashraf   Mon May 4 2009
thank you alot for these information i want know the cuases of burning of cherry leaves edges please
L   Mon Sep 14 2009
is the wild cherry tree classified as a leafy tree? If not what is it classified as, evergreen, coniferous etc? Thanks!
   Mar 5 2013 12:00AM
The leaves are used in Lithuanian pickling recipes. Here is an example given to me by a Lithuanian friend but sadly lacking quantities: coarse salt garlic wild horseradish leaf dill oak leaves cherry leaves or blackcurrant leaves peppercorns
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Subject : Prunus avium  

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