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Wood Species: Cherry (Black)

Scientific Name: Prunus serotina

Trade Name: Black Cherry

Family Name: Rosaceae

Common Names: Wild Black Cherry, Rum Cherry, Mountain Black Cherry

Regions of Distribution: North America

Countries of Distribution: Canada, United States


Color: Heartwood is light to dark reddish brown and lustrous. Sapwood is light brown to pale with a light pinkish tone. Some flooring manufacturers steam lumber to bleed the darker heartwood color into the sapwood, resulting in a more uniform color. Color darkens significantly with age.

Grain: Fine, frequently wavy, uniform texture. Distinctive flake pattern on true quartersawn surfaces. Texture is satiny, with some gum pockets.

Variations within species: Significant color variation between boards.


Hardness/Janka: 950 (26% softer than Northern red oak)

Dimensional Stability: Above average (7.1: 17% more stable than Northern red oak)

Origin: North America

Availability: Readily available

Average and Maximum Lifespan: 100 to 250 years


Sawing/Machining: Good machining qualities.

Sanding: Sands satisfactorily if the correct sanding sequence is followed. Suggested sequence. First Cut: 60 at a 7-15 degree angle with the grain. Second Cut: 80 straight with the grain. Third Cut: 100. Hard Plate: not recommended. Screen: 80 or 100.

Nailing: No known problems.

Finishing: No known problems.

Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetmaking, trim, paneling, professional and scientific instruments, handles, toys.

Detailed Description

Plant habit and lifestyle: A deciduous tree. Oval crown, dense. Pendulous branches. 60' to 90' tall. 35' to 50' wide. Medium texture. Rapid growth rate, especially when young. Plants Angiosperms, synoecious.

Stems: Slender, reddish brown, sometimes covered in gray epidermis, pronounced bitter almond odor and taste; buds are very small (1/5 inch),covered in several glossy, reddish brown to greenish scales. Leaf scars are small and semicircular with 3 bundle scars. Pith continuous. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) bronze or brown or gray or green or red or reddish-brown, glabrous. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous.

Buds: Buds axillary or terminal, reddish-brown, 3–4(–5) mm long, ovoid, blunt or sharp, bud scales imbricate.

Leaves: Alternate, simple, 2 to 5 inches long, oblong to lance-shaped, finely serrated, very small inconspicuous glands on petiole, dark green and lustrous above, paler below; usually with a dense yellowish-brown, sometimes white pubescence along mid-rib. In October, they become a showy orange-yellow color. Avoid eating leaves as they contain high quantities of the poison amygdalin which forms cyanide when the plant parts are eaten.

Flowers: Small white flowers. 0.33” across. Fragrant. Blooms in May. Borne in pendulous racemes, 4” to 6” long. Showy. Flowering March or April or May or June. Inflorescences terminal, racemes, flowers stalked. Flowers bisexual, perigynous. Perianth. Calyx radially symmetric, synsepalous. Sepals 5 per flower, calyx tubes 1–1.5 mm long, reflexed, green, deltoid or oblong, sepal margins entire or erose or laciniate, sepal apices acute, glabrous or pubescent, puberulent, persistent. Corolla radially symmetric, apopetalous. Petals 5 per flower, 4–6 mm long, spreading, white, obovate or orbiculate or spatulate, petal apices obtuse or rounded, caducous. Androecium. Stamens (15–)20(–25) per flower, alternating with petals or opposite petals, separate. Gynoecium. Ovaries superior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium monocarpous, 1 carpels per flower, styles 1 per pistil, placentation axile. Other floral features. Hypanthia present.

Fruits: Rounded, purplish-red drupe. 0.33” in diameter. Edible. Mature to black in August or September. The ripe fruits can be eaten raw or cooked into wine, jelly or pie. The drupes are bitter until they mature. fruit maturation 1 years.

Habitat: Native to Canada down through the eastern part of the United States. Hardy to zone 3. Habitat bottomland forests or disturbed and weedy areas or dry-mesic upland forests or mesic upland forests or mixed forest edges or suburban plantings.

Special Diagnostic Characteristics: Leaves usually with 1 or 2 glands near the point of attachment of petiole and blade; broken twigs with an almond-like odor.