E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Prunus serotina Ehrh.
black cherry
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Brian Klinkenberg  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #24963)

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Black cherry is a sun-loving tree (to 25m) or shrub that is found in North America in the eastern and midwest US states and adjacent Canada (ON, QE, NB, NS) (USDA 2011). It has also been introduced to British Columbia, where it has escaped and is occasionally found in "mesic to moist clearings, forest edges and open forest in the lowland zone" (Douglas et al. 1999). It has been reported from the Vancouver, Richmond and Squamish areas. There are two collections from wild plants in the UBC Herbarium from Porteau Cove (Squamish area) (1995) and Richmond (1996).

In rich, moist soils this species can become a dominant tree (e.g. in the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia), but in poorer soils it is usually a small tree or shrub. In Ontario, for example, both large trees (e.g. southwestern Ontario) and small shrubs (e.g. Simcoe County) are found. It can reproduce from sprouts.

The leaves on black cherry are long, tapering, with a sharp-pointed tip. Bark on older trees is scaly and distinctive. Flowering occurs in our region from mid-May to mid-June; the white solitary flowers appear in racemes after leaf development. Pollination is by insects and the black fruits (cherries) are dispersed by birds and mammals.

In the 17th century, black cherry was introduced to Europe where it is now "widely distributed and frequent in much of Germany, Poland and Denmark" and is considered an invasive species (Starfinger 2010).

Species Information

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Tree to 25 m tall; twigs reddish-brown; bark smooth with conspicuous lenticels on young stems, with age scaly-roughened, breaking up into small plates or coming off in curved strips.
Alternate, deciduous, lance-oblong to oblong-egg-shaped, 5-12 cm long, finely toothed with blunt incurved teeth, long-tapering to a slender, sharp-pointed tip, blunt to pointed at the base, dark green above, paler and usually hairy along the midvein beneath.
Inflorescence a long (6-15 cm) bottlebrush-like cluster, at the end of a short leafy spur-shoot, of numerous stalked flowers; corollas white, saucer-shaped, the petals 5, nearly circular, about 4 mm long; calyces glabrous, 5-lobed, the oval lobes sharp-pointed, mostly entire, 1-1.5 mm long, persistent under the fruit; ovaries superior; stamens about 25.
Fleshy drupes with a large stone (cherries), globe-shaped, 7-10 mm long, shiny, dark purple or black; seeds 1.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Black
Present over the Summer
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Mesic to moist clearings, forest edges and open forest in the lowland zone; rare in the Vancouver area; introduced from eastern North America.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

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