Wild Cherry

Prunus avium

Wild Cherry Prunus avium

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.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium

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.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium fruit

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.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium bark

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.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium extrafloral nectaries


May and July 2013, local garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013.

Bird Cherry

Prunus padus

Bird Cherry Prunus padus

This is quite a showy tree when in bloom with its long, white tail-like arrangement of flowers. The bark is smooth, greyish-brown, with a strong unpleasant smell when rubbed. The leaves are elliptical to elongate, with dark green upper surfaces and greeny-blue undersides. They grow up to 10cm long, have finely toothed margins, and they taper towards the tip. The flowers open in May, and are white, almond-scented and grow in spikes which can be pendulous or ascending growing up to 15cm long. The fruits are 6-8mm and glossy black, and are generally only eaten by birds, such is their sour, acidic taste. The tree can grow up to 17m (55ft) in height, and can live for up to 200 years.

Bird Cherry Prunus padus

Found in woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens, and other urban green spaces. A native tree, common and widespread across Britain, and also planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens.

Many species of insect rely on Bird Cherry for food, especially several species of moths. The fruits are eaten by birds such as robins, thrushes, and starlings.


May 2012, local pathway, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Japanese Cherry

Prunus serrulata

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata

Also called ‘Oriental Cherry’ or ‘East Asian Cherry’, the Japanese have been cultivating this tree for 2,000 years and have bred numerous varieties. A medium-sized deciduous tree which can grow up to a height of 15m (49ft), with a dense and busy crown. The bark is purple-brown with horizontal lines of prominent lenticels, which are pores. The ovate leaves are up to 20cm long with serrated margins and a long drawn out tip. The flowers are in clusters and can be white or pink appearing in April and May. They may also be double, and are often abundant. Cultivated forms rarely produce any cherries. There are many cultivated varients of this tree, ‘Kanzan’, being perhaps the most commonly grown form.

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata

Found in parks and gardens, and planted along streets and avenues in Britain as an ornamental tree.

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata

Most likely originally native to China, then introduced to Japan at a very early date before being introduced to Europe and then Britain where it has become a very popular spring-flowering species.

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata


May 2013, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013.