Tree to 25 m; bark aromatic, breaking up into small plates and appearing scaly-roughened; lvs firm, lanceolate to oblong or oblanceolate, 6-12 cm, with mostly 15 or more pairs of inconspicuous lateral veins, acuminate at the tip, acute or obtuse at base, finely incurved-serrate; racemes terminating leafy twigs of the current season, 8-15 cm; pedicels 3-6 mm; sep oblong or triangular, 1-1.5 mm, entire or sparsely glandular-erose, persistent under the fr; pet white, 4 mm, with subrotund blade; fr dark purple or black, 1 cm thick, edible when fully ripe; 2n=32. Formerly a forest tree, now abundant as a weed-tree of roadsides, waste land, and forest-margins; N.S. to N.D. and sw. Ont., s. to Fla., Ariz., and Guatemala. May.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Martin and Hutchins 1980, Felger et al. 2001, Powell 1998, Carter 2012
Common Name: black cherry Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Tree Wetland Status: FACU General: Small deciduous tree to 8 m tall with reddish brown glabrous twigs. Leaves: Alternate, winter deciduous, ovate to elliptic, acute at base and apex, finely serrate, glabrous or with a few hairs on the veins beneath, 3.5-9 cm long, on petioles 5-15 mm. Flowers: White, in long, slender glabrous racemes on short branches from the previous year, 3-12 cm long, the 5 white petals broadly obovate, about 3 mm long. Fruits: Red to purple or black drupe, 6-10 mm wide. Ecology: Found along streams and in moist canyons from 4,500-7,500 ft (1372-2286 m), flowers March-July. Distribution: Ranges from Arizona to Texas and south into northern Mexico. Notes: The finely serrate leaf margins, the reddish bark and the long slender raceme of flowers are all distinctive. P. serotina is not as common as chokecherry, P. virginiana, and is distinguished by the persistant calyx lobes on the underside of the berries; the calyx of P. virginiana is deciduous long before the fruit matures. Ethnobotany: Infusion of bark taken for colds, fevers, diarrhea, smallpox, consumption, to aid in childbirth and to ease labor pains, laryngitis, a wash for sores and ulcers, and as a disinfectant. One report stated an infusion of bark taken with honey. Etymology: Prunus is an ancient Latin name for the plum, while serotina means late flowering. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2011, AHazelton 2015
Charles C. Deam. 1940. Flora of Indiana
This species will not endure shade. It bears innumerable fruits and the seed germinate readily. The sportsmen favor this tree because its fruit is greedily eaten by birds, while the land owners condemn it because it is difficult to keep fencerows and roadsides free from it. In the primitive forest I think it was infrequent and only locally frequent in its habitat. It was found in beech and sugar maple and basswood and sugar maple habitats, usually associated with black walnut and tulip tree. It was rarely found on black and white oak ridges or in lowland woods. It is now found throughout the state in open woodland and along fences and roadsides.
Indiana Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 1
Wetland Indicator Status: FACU
Deam (1932): The wood of black cherry from pioneer times has been a favorite wood, and for this reason the tree soon disappeeared, and today large trees are rare. The wood is strong, close-grained, and reddish-brown and much resembles mahogany. In value it stands second in Indiana woods. It is used principally for furniture, office, and store fixtures.
The black cherry grows readily from seed; it is not difficult to transplant; adapts itself to almost all kinds of soil and grows rapidly. In spring it is one of the first grees to put out its leaves. It is not shade enduring, which no doubt, accounts for its rarity in the primeval forest. When grown in the open the tree usually produces an abundance of fruit which is much relished by birds.