Plant of the Week: Prunus serotina
Plant of the Week! Even if you don’t have experience identifying trees by their bark, the bark of a mature Prunus serotina, Black Cherry, is likely to stand out on a hike in the woods. Black Cherry’s bark is very dark in color and flaky, curling away from the trunk in pieces the size and shape of potato chips. A very tall, (up to 100 ft!) aggressively spreading tree, Black Cherry is probably not appropriate for small home landscapes, although the bark, white flowers, and fall color are quite attractive. This is not the same Black Cherry that produces commercial fruit, however the timber is valued for its rich color and strength. It is also a very valuable wildlife tree, not only for its fruits but also because it hosts many insects, which in turn provide quality food for a variety of birds. Although it is typical for many saplings of Black Cherry to be present, few trees mature. This is because the saplings are somewhat shade tolerant, but as they grow, they become less so. Black Cherry is known as a “gap phase” tree, because as other species in the forest (oak in particular) die, more light will be made available to the already present cherry saplings. Those in the gap left behind by another tree have a chance to grow and mature.