Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Prunus serotina


SPECIES: Prunus serotina
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1991. Prunus serotina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : PRUSER SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : PRSE2 PRSEA PRSEE PRSER COMMON NAMES : black cherry wild black cherry rum cherry mountain black cherry wild cherry TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of black cherry is Prunus serotina Ehrh. [34]. Recognized varieties found in the United States and Canada include: var. serotina - black cherry var. alabamensis (Mohr) Little - Alabama black cherry var. exima (Small) Little - escarpment black cherry var. rufula (Woot. & Standl) McVaugh - southwestern black cherry LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Prunus serotina
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Black cherry grows in eastern North America from western Minnesota south to eastern Texas, and eastward to the Atlantic from central Florida to Nova Scotia [34]. Outlying populations grow in central Texas; in the mountains of western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona; and south in Mexico to Guatemala [34]. The varieties are distributed as follows [34]: typical black cherry (var. serotina) - from Nova Scotia west to central Minnesota, south to east Texas, and east to central Florida. Alabama black cherry (var. alabamensis) - from eastern Georgia west to northeastern Alabama, and south to northwestern Florida. Also local in South Carolina and North Carolina. escarpment cherry (var. exima) - found in the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas. southwestern black cherry (var. rufula) - in the mountains from western Texas to central Arizona, and south to northern and central Mexico. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood FRES18 Maple - beech - birch FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES32 Texas savanna STATES : AL AZ AR CT DE FL GA IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO NE NH NJ NM NY NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX VT VA WV WI NB NS ON PQ MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 7 Lower Basin and Range 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K062 Mesquite - live oak savanna K081 Oak savanna K084 Cross Timbers K086 Juniper - oak savanna K087 Mesquite - oak savanna K089 Black Belt K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest K100 Oak - hickory forest K101 Elm - ash forest K102 Beech - maple forest K103 Mixed mesophytic forest K104 Appalacian oak forest K106 Northern hardwoods K109 Transition between K104 and K106 K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K115 Sand pine scrub K116 Subtropical pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 14 Northern pin oak 17 Pin cherry 19 Gray birch - red maple 20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple 21 Eastern white pine 22 White pine - hemlock 23 Eastern hemlock 25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch 27 Sugar maple 28 Black cherry - maple 31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech 34 Red spruce - Fraser fir 40 Post oak - blackjack oak 42 Bur oak 43 Bear oak 44 Chestnut oak 45 Pitch pine 51 White pine - chestnut oak 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 55 Northern red oak 57 Yellow-poplar 59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak 60 Beech - sugar maple 64 Sassafras - persimmon 66 Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper 68 Mesquite 70 Longleaf pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 85 Slash pine - hardwood 108 Red maple 109 Hawthorn 110 Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Black cherry occurs as scattered individuals in numerous forest types of the East (see SAF cover types listed). It is codominant in only one cover type, the black cherry-maple type (SAF 28) found in the Allegheny Plateau and Allegheny Mountain sections of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia [18]. In this type, black cherry is a primary component along with red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (A. saccharum), and white ash (Fraxinus americana). Other common associates include American beech (Fagus grandifolia), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), sweet birch (Betula lenta), yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis), yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), cucumbertree (Magnolia acuminata), oak (Quercus spp.), and hickory (Carya spp.) [1,5,29,41].


SPECIES: Prunus serotina
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Black cherry is an important commercial tree. The rich reddish-brown wood is strong, hard, and close-grained. It works well and finishes smoothly, making it one of the most valued cabinet and furniture woods in North America [59]. Black cherry wood is also used for paneling, interior trim, veneers, handles, crafts, toys, and scientific instruments [17,58]. Black cherry's commercial range, where large numbers of high-quality trees are found, is restricted to the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia [39]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Black cherry leaves, twigs, bark, and seeds are poisonous to livestock. They contain a cyanogenic glycoside which breaks down during digestion into hydrocyanic acid [52]. Most livestock poisoning apparently comes from eating wilted leaves, which contain more of the toxin than fresh leaves do. One author speculated that more livestock are killed from eating black cherry than from any other plant [17]. White-tailed deer eat the leaves and twigs without harm, and browse small to moderate amounts of seedlings and saplings [39]. Black cherry fruits are important mast for numerous species of birds and mammals. Numerous songbirds feed on black cherries as they migrate south in the fall. Passerine birds that make considerable use of black cherry fruits include the American robin, brown thrasher, mockingbird, eastern bluebird, European starling, gray catbird, blue jay, willow flycatcher, northern cardinal, common crow, and waxwings, thrushes, woodpeckers, grackles, grosbeaks, sparrows, and vireos [42,43]. Black cherries are also important in the summer and fall diets of the ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, wild turkey, northern bobwhite, and greater and lesser prairie chicken [33,39,58]. The red fox, raccoon, opossum, and squirrels and rabbits also eat the fruit [58]. Black cherries have been described as a favorite food of black bears [11]. PALATABILITY : Black cherry is moderately palatable to white-tailed deer; they prefer sugar maple, white ash, yellow birch, yellow-poplar, and pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) [37,54]. The fruits are highly palatable to song birds, upland game birds, and mammals [42,58,59]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : The twigs of black cherry seedlings and saplings are high in protein. In Pennsylvania, the protein content of twig sections in mid-April was about 24 percent for the bud, 15 percent for the terminal 1 inch (2.5 cm) section, and 13 percent the terminal 1 to 2 inch section (2.5-5 cm) [12]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Black cherry is used for surface mine spoil reclamation in the East. Best results are obtained by planting 1-year-old or older nursery grown seedlings. Direct seeding has generally been unsuccessful. In Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, 30-year-old plantings at 9 sites averaged 22 percent survival, 5.2 inches d.b.h. (13 cm), and 36 feet (11 m) in height [60]. Methods for collecting, extracting, cleaning, storing, and sowing black cherry seed to produce nursery grown seedlings are available [21,59]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Black cherry bark was used historically in the Appalachians as a cough remedy, tonic, and sedative. The fruit was also used to flavor rum and brandy. Pitted fruits are edible, and are eaten raw and used in wine and jelly [39]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Silviculture: Black cherry regenerates best under even-aged silvicultural treatments [39,40,41]. Clearcutting is generally used where advanced regeneration is abundant. Shelterwood cuts are used where seedlings are scarce and provide good conditions for establishment from soil-stored seed. Soil scarification following cutting is not necessary. Animal damage: Following timber harvest, black cherry seedlings generally suffer less browsing damage by deer than associated hardwoods because they are less palatable [54]. However, black cherry stocking can be reduced or completely eliminated where deer populations are high. In some instances, successful regeneration can only be assured where advanced seedlings are so abundant that deer cannot eat them all [39]. Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer applications 2 years after harvest cause black cherry seedlings to quickly outgrow the reach of deer [3]. Competing vegetation: Competing herbaceous vegetation, such as bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), hayscented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula), whorled wood aster (Aster accuminatus), flat-topped aster (A. umbellatus), goldenrod (Solidigo rugosa), and wild oatgrass (Danthonia compressa), are often favored by shelterwood cuts. These species inhibit black cherry seed germination and seedling growth through allelopathy [16,27]. They are effectively controlled with herbicides which also kill black cherry seedlings. However, black cherry seed in the soil is not affected by herbicide treatments, and new seedlings establish after spraying [37]. Control: Black cherry under 3 feet (0.9 m) tall is susceptible to 2,4,5-T, but slightly more tolerant of 2,4-D. Basal bark treatments with these herbicides kill trees over 10 feet (3 m) tall [44]. Black cherry is killed by soil treatments of Bromacil, Fenuron, Karbutilate, and Picloram [9]. Insects and Diseases: The most serious defoliating insects affecting black cherry are the eastern tent caterpillar and the cherry scallop shell moth. Infestations of these insects are sporadically heavy and cause growth loss and occasional mortality. Numerous borers and beetles cause gum defects but are seldom fatal. Black knot, a fungal disease which causes elongated rough black swellings much larger than the stem, is common in black cherry. In Pennsylvania, Cytospora leucostoma causes a canker disease resulting in widespread branch mortality. Numerous root and butt rotting fungi have been reported in black cherry; however, decay generally spreads more slowly in cherry than associated trees. See Marquis [39] for a complete discussion of insects and diseases of black cherry. Wind damage: Because it is shallow-rooted and has a tendency to overtop its associates in mixed stands, black cherry is susceptible to windthrow [39].


SPECIES: Prunus serotina
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Black cherry is a deciduous, single-stemmed, medium- to large-sized tree. In the forest it typically has a large, straight, branch-free bole with a narrow crown, but in openings it tends to have a shorter trunk and a broad, irregular crown [26]. In the East, typical black cherry (var. serotina) may reach 125 feet (38 m) in height and 4 feet (1.2 m) or more in diameter [17]. Southwestern varieties are typically much smaller. Southwestern black cherry (var. rufula) seldom grows taller than 30 feet (9 m), and escarpment black cherry (var. exima) taller than 50 feet (15 m) [50]. Black cherry has a shallow and spreading root system. Most roots occur within 24 inches (61 cm) of the soil surface [39]. Bark on young stems is thin, smooth, and reddish-brown to nearly black. On large trunks the bark is fissured and scaly but remains thin [20,23]. Black cherry has simple, 2- to 6-inch-long, thick and leathery leaves [26]. White flowers occur in 3- to 4-inch-long, oblong-cylindric racemes at the end of leafy twigs of the season [17]. The fruit is a nearly globular, one-seeded, purplish-black to black, 0.5 inch (1.2 cm) diameter drupe [11,20]. The seed is an oblong-ovoid stone about 0.33 inch (0.75 cm) long [59]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed production: In natural stands maximum seed production occurs on 30- to 100-year-old trees. Some seed is produced almost every year, with good crops produced at 1- to 5-year intervals [39]. In Pennsylvania, large seed crops occur about every other year [8]. There are about 4,800 cleaned seeds per pound (10,560/kg) [39]. Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by gravity, birds, and mammals. The fruits fall shortly after ripening in late summer or fall. Seeds not dispersed by animals generally land near the parent tree. Thus the abundance of seedlings in the understory is related to the number and distribution of seed trees in the overstory. Because of animal dispersal, however, black cherry seedlings are often abundant in stands with no or few seed-producing black cherry trees [1,15,29,41,51]. Germination tests show that black cherry seeds that pass through the digestive tracts of passerine birds successfully germinate after proper cold stratification, and have higher germination rates than undigested seeds [30,51]. Seed quality: Usually over 90 percent of seeds are sound [8,59]. Dormancy and germination: Black cherry seeds require cold stratification to germinate. This occurs as seeds overwinter on the forest floor [39]. Black cherry exhibits delayed germination: seeds from one crop germinate over a period of 3 years. Of seed artificially sown and buried 1 inch below the soil surface in a northern hardwood stand in Pennsylvania, 22, 42, and 4 percent germinated the first, second, and third year, respectively [36]. In another germination study, 10, 50, and 25 percent germinated 1, 2, and 3 years after burial, respectively [62]. Delayed germination allows black cherry to bank large amounts of seed in the forest floor. There are typically hundreds of thousands of black cherry seeds stored in the soil of black cherry-maple stands in Pennsylvania in any given year [36]. Each spring about one-half of these germinate. Black cherry's moisture and light requirements for germination are not as exacting as those of its associates [44]. However, moist seedbeds ensure good germination. Seeds germinate in loose soil and forest litter, but germination is somewhat higher in litter than mineral soil [39,44]. Seedling growth and survival: Seedlings typically grow to a height of 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) 30 days after germination. In dense shade, they grow very slowly, sometimes reaching 6 inches (15 cm) in height in 3 or 4 years, but die thereafter unless released [39]. An understory of tiny black cherry seedlings is common in numerous mixed deciduous forests. If the canopy is opened due to windthrow, harvest, or other disturbance, the seedlings survive well and grow rapidly in full sunlight [39]. Vegetative reproduction: Black cherry sprouts vigorously from the stump following cutting or fire [32,55]. Sprouting frequency of stumps remains high, probably over 90 percent, for trees up to about 60 years of age [32]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Black cherry occurs in numerous mesic woods and second-growth hardwood forests in the eastern United States and Canada. It is also common in old fields and along fence rows. It grows on a variety of soil types, textures, and drainages but is most abundant on mesic sites [39]. Black cherry attains its greatest abundance on the Allegheny Plateau, where it is found on nearly all soil types. In this region it grows somewhat better on middle and lower slopes of eastern and northern exposures than on the dry soils associated with south- or west-facing slopes [39]. This mesophytic tendency becomes even more pronounced farther south. In the southern Appalachians, black cherry generally grows as scattered individuals with other mesophytic hardwoods and occasionally forms pure stands at high elevations [39]. In the Great Smoky Mountains, black cherry is best represented in cove forests below 5,500 feet (1,676 m) [63]. In southern Wisconsin, understory black cherry is a conspicuous component of xeric oak forests and savannas [5]. In the southwestern United States, black cherry is confined to canyons, valleys, and rich bottomlands [5,57]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Black cherry is a seral, shade-intolerant, gap-phase species [13]. It rarely occurs in the canopy of late successional deciduous forests but buried seed and seedlings are often present in the understory. Seedlings may survive in the understory for about 5 years but then die or die-back to the stem base unless released [5,39]. Seedlings that die are soon replaced because of the abundance of buried seed. Any disturbance which opens the canopy will release this bank of suppressed seedlings. Once released, young black cherry grow rapidly and quickly fill the gap, overtopping shade-tolerant associates. Because of its abundant soil-stored seeds and prolific sprouting ability, black cherry dominates secondary succession following logging, fire, or wind-throw [44]. The Society of American Forester's black cherry - maple cover type (SAF 28) is a second-growth or intermediate successional stage created by widespread clearcutting at the turn of the century. This type is successional to beech-hemlock-sugar maple [18]. In bur and white oak (Quercus macrocarpa, Q. alba) woodlands in southern Wisconsin, black cherry accounts for about one-half of the total number of seedlings and saplings but is largely absent from the overstory. Under the shade of the oaks, black cherry saplings repeatedly die-back to the stem base and resprout. Black cherry can persist, by maintaining a small aboveground size, for 40 to 60 years until released [4,5]. Long-distance seed dispersal by birds is important in the establishment of black cherry along fence rows and into forest openings, old fields, and pine plantations [2,51]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Black cherry flowers in the spring when the leaves are one-half to fully expanded. Fruits develop over the spring and summer and ripen by early to late summer depending on latitude and climate. The fruits fall soon after ripening. Fruit maturation may vary by as much as 3 weeks on trees in the same stand [39]. Generalized timing of phenological events vary regionally as follows [8,39,46,50]: Northeast Southeast Southwest Flowering late May-early June March-April Fruits Ripe late Aug-September June June-August Seedfall late Aug-October June-early July


SPECIES: Prunus serotina
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Black cherry is very susceptible to fire injury but typically resprouts from the root crown or stump [55]. Considerable amounts of black cherry seed are stored in the soil [36]. The seed's stony endocarp and the soil provide some insulation from fire [22]. Although not documented, some soil-stored seeds presumably survive at least light fires and contribute to postfire seedling establishment. Birds and animals may distribute some seed into burned areas. However, as a means of postfire recovery, this is probably of minor importance. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex


SPECIES: Prunus serotina
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Black cherry's thin bark (about 0.2 inches [5 cm]) has poor insulating properties [23]. When the boles of black cherry trees were heated with a propane torch, the cambium reached lethal temperatures faster than any other eastern hardwood tested. The thin bark makes trees highly susceptible to girdling, and black cherry is usually killed or top-killed by fires of moderate severity. Trees larger than about 4 to 6 inches in diameter, however, may survive light surface fires [39,45,48]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : The effects of fire on black cherry vary depending on fire severity and stem diameter. A large percentage of seedlings and saplings are generally top-killed by low-severity fires, but larger individuals may be unaffected. As fire severity increases, the percentage of tree-sized individuals killed also increases. An April prescribed fire in a south-central Wisconsin bur and white oak savanna killed only 2 out of 141 black cherry seedlings and saplings. The others either resprouted, suffered only partial scarring, or were unharmed. The percentage of foliage killed was inversely related to stem diameter. Nearly all seedlings were top-killed, but only a small percentage of plants 4 inches (10 cm) d.b.h. were affected. In general, black cherry was more susceptible to fire damage than either species of oak [25]. Low-intensity prescribed surface fires (mean flame length > 1 foot [0.3 m], mean rate of spread of 10.8 feet [3.3 m] per minute) in a 30-year-old mixed hardwood stand in central Wisconsin top-killed 67 to 100 percent of saplings less than 4 inches (10 cm) d.b.h., but did not top-kill any black cherry greater than 4 inches (10 cm) d.b.h. One year after the fire, seedling density was reduced by about 35 percent, from 11,400 to 7,500 per acre (28,250-18,500/ha) [48]. Following a wildfire in south-central New York, 12 percent of 4 inch (10 cm) d.b.h. and smaller black cherry in old fields were killed. The rest were top-killed and later sprouted [53]. In longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) stands in Alabama, two summer prescribed burns spaced 2 years apart killed small black cherry less than 1 inch d.b.h. These plants sprouted after the first fire but not after the second [10]. Following an early spring, low-intensity prescribed fire in a young black oak (Quercus velutina)-black cherry forest in Connecticut, about 15 percent of 1- to 4-inch-diameter black cherry were top-killed. No 4- to 6-inch-diameter trees were affected [45]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Black cherry typically sprouts when aboveground portions are killed by fire. It is generally considered a prolific sprouter. Each top-killed individual produces several sprouts that grow rapidly. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : In 4- to 6-year-old northern Alabama clearcuts, black cherry saplings and coppice sprouts regenerated quickly following top-killing broadcast burns. Three to four years after burning, the density and frequency of stems greater than 4.5 feet (1.4 m) tall was about equal to preburn levels [28]. In North Carolina, 1-inch-diameter (2.5 cm) black cherry that were top-killed following a winter prescribed fire quickly sprouted, producing an average of eight sprouts per stump. Black cherry sprouts grew faster than all other hardwood sprouts on the study area. The average height of the tallest black cherry sprout on each stump was 5.8 feet (1.7 m) 1 year after burning [49]. In oldfields in New York, black cherry seedlings top-killed by fire averaged 4.4 sprouts per stump [53]. In south-central Wisconsin oak savanna, black cherry seedlings and saplings top-killed by fire had 1 to 16 sprouts per stump. In general, black cherry's sprouting response was vigorous, producing larger and more numerous sprouts than than black, white, or bur oak [25]. The Research Project Summary Effects of surface fires in a mixed red and eastern white pine stand in Michigan and the Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provide information on prescribed fire and postfire response of several plant species, including black cherry, that was not available when this species review was written. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Black cherry does not require scarified seedbeds. Controlled burning following timber harvest is not necessary for black cherry regeneration [41]. Black cherry sprouts prolifically following fire. However, this depletes its underground carbohydrate reserves and leaves it in a weakened condition. A second fire within a year or two would probably kill any seedlings and saplings that survived the first fire by resprouting [10,25].


SPECIES: Prunus serotina
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Hare, Robert C. 1965. Contribution of bark to fire resistance of southern trees. Journal of Forestry. 63(4): 248-251. [9915] 24. Henderson, Richard. 1983. Fire tolerance of black cherry and black oak saplings in a savanna. Restoration & Management Notes. 1(4): 17. [16791] 25. Wade, D. D.; Lundsford, J. 1990. Fire as a forest management tool: prescribed burning in the southern United States. Unasylva. 41: 28-38. [16792] 26. Hosie, R. C. 1969. Native trees of Canada. 7th ed. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Forestry Service, Department of Fisheries and Forestry. 380 p. [3375] 27. Horsley, Stephen B. 1977. Allelopathic inhibition of black cherry by fern (Pteridium aquilinum), grass, goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) and aster (Aster umbellatus). Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 7: 205-216. [10001] 28. Huntley, Jimmy C.; McGee, Charles E. 1981. Timber and wildlife implications of fire in young upland hardwoods. In: Barnett, James P., ed. 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