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

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

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Rosemary Taylor  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #29426)

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Distribution of Prunus emarginata
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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

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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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

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

Habitat / 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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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) 10 535 1609
Slope Gradient (%) 0 24 90
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 193 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number 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)


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.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References