Prunus emarginata (Douglas ex Hook.) D. Dietr.
bitter cherry
Rosaceae (Rose family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Rosemary Taylor     (Photo ID #29426)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Prunus emarginata
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend


This small deciduous species of cherry tree is native to British Columbia. It is found from BC south to California and east to Montana, Wyoming and Arizona.

Species Information

Shrub or small tree, 2-15 m tall, sometimes thicket-forming, smooth to densely hairy throughout; bark reddish-brown or grey, with horizontal lenticels.
Alternate, deciduous, elliptic to egg-shaped or lanceolate, 3-8 cm long, finely round-toothed, rounded or blunt to sometimes sharp-pointed at the tip, wedge-shaped to pointed at the base, densely hairy (at least below) to smooth; leaf stalks 5-12 mm long, usually lacking small glands at the top.
Inflorescences short, rounded to flat-topped clusters, at the ends of short spur-shoots, of 3 to 10 stalked flowers; corollas white, saucer-shaped, the petals 5, egg-shaped, 5-7 mm long, often hairy on the lower surface; calyces smooth to coarse-hairy, 5-lobed, the oblong lobes about 2 mm long; ovaries superior; stamens about 20.
Fleshy drupes with a large ellipsoid stone (cherries), egg- to globe-shaped, 8-12 mm long, bright red to purple; seeds 1.
The more typical tree-like plants from coastal areas have been given the varietal name mollis (Dougl.) Brew.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Red
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA


Ecological Framework for Prunus emarginata

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres)
535 10 1609
Slope Gradient (%)
24 0 90

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

193 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 0 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

BG(1), BWBS(3), CDF(13), CWH(122), ESSF(2), ICH(40), IDF(46), MS(3), PP(11), SBS(2)

Habitat and Range

Moist open forests, thickets, rocky slopes and streambanks in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common in southwestern BC, disjunct in WC BC, infrequent in S BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; S to CA and E to MT, WY and AZ.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia