The neighbour at the bottom of my garden has a wonderful cherry tree growing near my fence, and the blossoms which appear are beautiful and buzzing and alive with insects. Her husband, now departed, planted it as a cherry stone many, many years ago.
Wild Cherry (Prunus avium), garden, Staffordshire, England. April 2017.
Also called ‘Gean’, ‘Mazzard’ or ‘Sweet Cherry’, this tree has a high domed crown and the bark is purplish-grey, smooth and shiny with horizontal peeling in papery strips. The leaves are fairly large and are ovate and pointed, with serrated margins. They are a dull, dark green with 2-5 red glands at the base. It flowers in April and May before the leaves open, and the whole tree is covered in an abundance of large white sprays. The cherries ripen to dark red by August, and are bitter/sweet to the taste, but birds have better access and strip them clean off the tree very quickly. The tree can grow up to 30m (98ft) tall.
It grows in woodland margins and clearings, and it is often planted as an ornamental in parks and gardens. A fairly common and widespread native tree, except in northern Scotland and Western Ireland.
Uses: The timber of the Wild Cherry is hard and strong and a rich red in colour, and is used to make quality furniture and veneers. It is also used in wood-turning.
Extrafloral Nectaries: At the base of each leaf on the stalk are tiny red glands which may look like plant galls, but are in fact extrafloral nectaries. These foliar nectaries attract predatory insects who will eat the nectar and plant-eating insects which maybe a threat to the tree. In essence these insects act as the tree’s protectors. Ants are commonly attracted to the sugary secretions of these glands, and these help keep away egg-laying insects as well as larvae which may eat the foliage.
May and July 2013, local garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013.