Black Cherry, Rum Cherry
- Broadleaf deciduous tree, 50-60(80) ft [~15-18(25) m] tall, pyramidal to conical when young, with age oval with pendulous
branches (i.e., somewhat weeping). Bark on large trunks is gray-black and scaly; inner bark aromatic. Leaves alternate, simple, oblong-ovate to lance-ovate, 5-12 cm long and 2.5-4.5 cm wide, tip
acuminate, base wedge-shaped (cuneate), margin serrulate with small teeth, glossy dark green above, light
green below, yellow to red in fall; petiole 1.5 cm long, glandular. Flowers white, 8 mm wide, in 12 cm
long clusters (racemes). Fruit 9 mm diam., round, turns black in early fall.
- Hardy to USDA Zone 3 Native range from Ontario east to North Dakota and
south to Texas and Florida; separate populations in Arizona and New Mexico, and in the mountains of Mexico and
Guatemala. It has escaped from cultivation as an ornamental tree in Europe and is now naturalized
in some areas.
- The fruit is edible, but somewhat bitter, it is used for jelly and wine making and to flavor
brandy and rum (one common name is Rum Cherry).
- serotina: late, apparently a reference to its late ripening fruit.
- Caution: Prunus serotina [Black Cherry] "was involved in one of the most equine toxic and costly situations
in American history. It was involved with the Mare Reproduction Loss Syndrome in Lexington, Kentucky,
where Eastern Tent Caterpillars were ingesting the leaves, concentrating the cyanide poison, and, in an unknown way
contributed to the resorption and death of many equine fetuses in 2002. These trees grew up as volunteers
along the fence line and were occasionally present inside the pasture. Cyanide is the toxic principle and is
a toxin that is required in very small amounts in order to cause damage. Wilted leaves may contain
significant amounts of cyanide. The cyanide potential is greatest three to four days after branches
have been cut or blown down. Dry leaves are not hazardous to horses. Horses can show signs within
an hour of eating wilted leaves. Clinical signs include severe respiratory distress, even sudden death. It
behooves owners to walk pastures after storms to make sure red maples and/or wild cherry limbs have
not blown into the pasture" (by Richard A. Mansmann, VMD, PhD, North Carolina State Univ.).