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Black cherry

(Prunus serotina)

Other Names:

black cherry, wild black cherry, rum cherry, or mountain black cherry



Rosaceae Rose family

Identifying characteristics:

Growth Type:

A Deciduous tree.


Can grow up to 100' tall


The simple lanceolate leaves are 2,5" - 5.5" long. They have serrated edges, with a shiny green top, and pale green underside. The midrib of the underside of the leaf has small rust colored hairs. The petioles are usually to 1 inches long and bear two glands near the base of the leaf.


For the first 10 or so years of its life, the bark of the black cherry resembles that of the birch species, and is thin and striped, with white banding and eyes. As the black cherry matures, it can easily be identified in a forest by its very broken, dark grey to black bark, which has the appearance of very thick, burnt potato chips (an easy way to remember this is Burnt Potato Chips = Black Cherry).


The subterranean roots are an excellent source of useful medicine.



Late Spring


The flowers are small 1/4" 1/2" in diameter, with five white petals and about 20 stamens. There are about 40 fragrant flowers on each raceme.


The fruit is a drupe, about 1/2" in diameter, green to red at first, and then ripening to black; it is usually astringent and bitter when eaten fresh, but also somewhat sweet. The fruit hangs in clusters below the branch.

Miscellaneous characteristics:



Riversides, wet areas, dry areas, forest edges, along railroads, dry open woodlands, pine barrens, and swamps

Parts Used:

Fruit, Bark, Roots


Wild Food Uses:

The fruit can be eaten fresh, or made into jams, preserves, juice. Historically the fruit was dried and used throughout the year. Native Americans pounded the entire berry, including the pit, and used them throughout the year. It was a staple for many native tribes. It is very good added to pemmican. You can also pour pureed, or pounded fruit, onto cookie sheets and dry in a sunny location to make chokecherry leather. As the fruit dries, the astringent qualities subside, making it much more palatable.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

The roots and bark have been used as an astringent, an appetite stimulant (bitter), a blood tonic, and a sedative. Modern herbalists use chokecherry to relieve chest congestion and lung disorders. It is also a very effective expectorant. The roots of the plant have more medicinal qualities than the inner bark of the limbs and trunk. It is also said that an infusion of the bark can be used to soothe pink eye.

Medicinal Actions:

Astringent, Bitter, Sedative, Tonic

This photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Revised: 05/11/16 Living Afield