Prunus serotina - Ehrh.
Common Name Rum Cherry - Wild Cherry, Black Cherry, Wild Black Cherry
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 3-9
Known Hazards The seeds and leaves of this species contain high quantities of hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is readily detected by its bitter taste. Usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten[21, 65]. 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. Discard the seeds. Keep plant way from children [301].
Habitats Found in a variety of soils, preferring moist fertile conditions on north or east facing slopes or protected coves[229]. Dry woods[43].
Range N. America - Nova Scotia to Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas. Also in Arizona and Mexico.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun

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

Prunus serotina Rum Cherry - Wild Cherry, Black  Cherry, Wild Black  Cherry
Prunus serotina Rum Cherry - Wild Cherry, Black  Cherry, Wild Black  Cherry
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prunus serotina is a deciduous Tree growing to 18 m (59ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cerasus capollin Ser. ex DC. Prunus capuli Cav. Prunus salicifolia Kunth.

Woodland Garden Canopy;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Drink.

Fruit - raw or cooked in pies, jellies, stews etc[2, 11, 34, 55, 62, 101, 149, 183]. It must be fully ripe or else it will have a bitter flavour. The fruit can taste sweet or bitter[43]. The better fruits have a thin skin and a juicy flesh with a pleasant vinous flavour[82]. The fruit can also be used as a flavouring[149]. The taste is best when the plant is grown in a sunny position[159]. The fruit is about 9mm 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 infusion of the twigs is used as a beverage[161, 257]. An extract from the bark is used commercially as a flavouring in soft drinks, sweets, syrups and baked goods[183].
Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal;  Antitussive;  Astringent;  Pectoral;  Sedative;  Stomachic;  Tonic.

Rum cherry was widely employed medicinally by various native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[257]. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The bark of the root, trunk and branches is antitussive, astringent, pectoral, sedative, stomachic, tonic[4, 21, 95, 165, 238]. The medicinal properties of this plant are destroyed by boiling, so the plant should only be allowed to steep in warm water[213]. The root bark and the aromatic inner bark have expectorant and mild sedative properties and a tea made from either of them has been used to ease pain in the early stages of labour[213, 222]. The tea is also used in the treatment of fevers, colds, sore throats, diarrhoea etc[222, 257]. The bark is harvested in the autumn and should not be stored for longer than one year since it quickly loses its medicinal properties[4, 213]. Young thin bark is preferred[213]. A decoction of the inner bark has been used in the treatment of laryngitis[257]. The root bark has been used as a wash on old sores and ulcers[257]. The bark contains the glycoside prunasin, which is converted in the digestive tract to the highly toxic hydrocyanic acid[222]. Prunasin is at its highest level in the bark in the autumn[222] so the bark is harvested at this time and can be dried for later use[254]. In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[238]. The fruit is astringent and has been used in the treatment of dysentery[213].


Other Uses
Dye;  Wood.

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[168]. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[168]. Wood - close and straight-grained, light, strong, rather hard, highly shock resistant[46, 82, 149, 171, 229]. It bends well, works well, finishes smoothly, glues well, seasons well, shrinks moderately and is moderately free from checking and warping[227]. It weighs about 36lb per cubic foot and takes a beautiful polish[227]. It is widely used for furniture, cabinet making, the interior finish of buildings etc[46, 82, 149, 171, 229].
Cultivation details
Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 11]. Requires a warm sunny position[11, 159]. 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 fast-growing and moderately long-lived tree in the wild, producing a heavy fruit crop about once every 4 years[229]. It is cultivated for its timber in C. Europe[50]. This species produces an abundance of flowers and usually fruits well in Britain[11]. In the wild the tree begins to fruit when about 10 years old and then continues for about 100 years, fruiting well in most years[149]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[238]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: Attracts birds, North American native, Naturalizing, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Attracts butterflies, 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]. 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 :
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Subject : Prunus serotina  

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