Black Cherry Tree

Black cherries, one of my favorite trees, are in bloom right now.  Where I grew up in north-central Pennsylvania and in western Maryland they are a tall stately tree with high timber value.  Here in central Maryland, they are a scrubbier tree around woodland edges.

Black cherries have incredible wildlife value.  The flowers provide nectar and pollen to several bee species.  Thrushes, woodpeckers, sparrows, bluebirds, tanagers, orioles, cedar waxings  and even, turkeys are among the dozens of bird species that eat the fruit.  Mammals such as fox, squirrels, chipmunks, mice and even black bears also eat black cherry’s fruit. 

Black cherry is generally not used as a landscape tree because of the large quantities of pests such as eastern tent caterpillars that it attracts.  Black Cherry is also host to many butterfly caterpillars including eastern tiger swallowtails, coral hairstreak, red-spotted purple, spring azure and viceroy butterflies.    Research has shown that there are 456 species of butterflies and moths whose caterpillars eat the leaves of black cherry.  These caterpillars are in turn an important source of food for birds, especially when they are raising their young.

Black cherries were used as a food and medicine source by native Americans.  But while humans can eat pitted black cherry fruit, they are very bitter and the seeds contain a toxin.  Black cherry can also kill livestock especially wilted leaves which contain more of the toxin that fresh leaves do.

Lenticels (breathing holes) are characteristic of young cherry bark.  Amy Donna thinks older cherry bark looks like potato chips.  What do you think?

Young bark with lenticels*
Older bark, potato chips?

* Full disclosure: The lenticels are on my ornamental cherry. It just showed them better than the other pictures I took walking around the yard this morning.

Fun Fact:  Black cherry was introduced to western Europe as an ornamental but has become highly invasive there.

Goal:  Take a picture of a black cherry tree

Fair Entries

  • Educational Insect Item – butterflies that use black cherry as a host
  • Insect Photo Series – insect(s) using tree
  • Mammal Educational Item – mammals that eat fruit of black cherry; food web(s) including mammal & black cherry
  • Forestry Collection – collect & press black cherry leaf, flower & fruit (picture might be better) collection can be all pressed, all pictures or any combination.
  • Forestry or Plant Identification Item – add black cherry to a tree – leaf, flower or fruit – id item
  • Forestry of Plant Educational Display – Create food web around a black cherry; Black wildlife value; Historical used of black cherries, etc.
  • Forestry or Plant Photo Series – Black cherry leaves, bark, pests, flowers, etc.


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