Content Detail

Black cherry is a large, native tree found in the Midwest and throughout the eastern United States. The showy white flowers appear as pendulous clusters in early spring, followed by dark, pea-sized fruits in late summer. The mature bark is dark and scaly, often flipping up on the edges.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

  • Family (English) Rose
  • Family (botanic) Rosaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 50-60 feet
  • Mature width 20-30 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Road salt
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Pyramidal
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Aggressive, Highly susceptible to ice damage, Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Cavity-nesting birds, Game birds, Game mammals, Insect pollinators, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars No

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Black cherry is commonly found in drier upland sites, along fencerows and along the edges of wooded areas. C-Value: 1

Bark color and texture: 

The bark is dark gray to almost black.  It is scaly with upturned edges.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

The simple, alternate leaves have finely toothed margins. Leaves are 2 to 5 inches long with small glands near the base or on the petiole. The leaves are dark green in summer, changing to yellow and orange in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

The tree has small, white flowers in elongated clusters. The flowers have a slightly unpleasant odor.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

The small cherries are held in an elongated cluster. They ripen to a purple-black color.

Plant care: 

The tree grows best in a slightly acid to neutral pH soil. Avoid growing it in wet sites. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Black knot is a fungal disease that can affect this tree. Eastern tent caterpillars also commonly attack this tree. The tree self sows easily due to its heavy fruit production. It can become weedy and aggressive. It is resistant to black walnut toxicity.

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