Cherry Bloom questions

Hi. The last 2 years I’ve had just awful fruit sets from my Montmorency Cherries. They bloom like crazy, but set only a very small number of fruit. Normally, I’d say I have a pollination problem, but that cannot be. First of all, Montmorency are supposed to not need a pollinator. Furthermore, I have several other pie cherry varieties very close by that bloom at the same time, so there should be some pollinating going on either way.

Now here is the strange part (to me) that I really hope some of you can help me with. Perhaps this is normal, but I don’t think so: My Montmorency trees have 2 kinds of blooms (see photo below). The flowers look the same, but the big differences is that most of the blooms have a very short stem or no stem at all (they are directly attached to small limbs). Now, these different stem lengths exist from day one, so it isn’t like some of them get pollinated and then grow long stems and some don’t. From the day they open, some are on long stems and some on short to no stems. Well, only the flowers that are on long stems end up setting fruit, and unfortunately that is the vast MINORITY of the blooms on each of my 2 trees. Those with the really short stems eventually just drop petals and then the cups fall off- no baby cherry is ever formed.

The photo below is taken after the petals have already fallen off the short-stem blooms, so just take my word for it when I say the two blooms shown looked identical (EXCEPT FOR THE STEM LENGTH) about a week ago.

Has anyone ever seen anything like this? It has happened at least the last 2 years, so its hard to blame it on some strange weather phenomenon this past winter. I’m VERY curious about this situation and would really love to hear from anyone with any insight. Googling things like “different flow types” or “Different stem lengths on Cherries” has turned up nothing. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!!??

Again, please remember that the pink-looking blooms on top have just dropped their white petals already, but they DID HAVE THEM, so originally the flowers looked exactly the same except for the obvious difference in stem length.


Shoot, I don’t grow Mont myself and I never get over to my clients trees when they are in bloom, but that is strange, certainly nothing like any of the sweets I grow. The white flowers are what bears fruit and your tree should be choc full of them. Send a picture of the whole tree so I can be sure you have a Mont. They usually bear with no problems where I manage them.

Thanks. Mine used to bear very heavy too. I’m quite sure they are Monts. They are covered with white blooms at first…both the long stem and short stem flowers have the same white blooms. But I forgot to take a photo until almost all the petals had fallen. The only photos I could find by then just happened to have a long-stem flower that still had its white petals, but the white petals had all fallen off the short-stemmed blooms. But the flowers look the same early on, and are very, very prolific. But only the blooms with long stems set fruit.

I grow Montmorency. First of all how hold is your tree. The flowers are one in the same. White petals, fall off leaving the stronger petals beneath (they have a name) they are part of the flowers shuck. They will split and fall off after pollination takes place and you see the tiny green cherry in in the center. Isn’t nature pretty?

I know you have and love a Montmorency and mine looks very much like yours. I think my photos caused more confusion than they helped. All the flowers on my tree start off with the same white looking petals seen in the long-stem bloom in the photo. But by the time I took the photo, the white petals had fallen off the short-stemmed flowers in the photo, leaving only the stronger petals beneath that you just described as being part of the shuck. So yes, all my flowers on the tree look and act like you described UNTIL (and this ONLY HAPPENS ON THE FLOWERS WITH LONG STEMS) the shuck falls off and leaves the tiny green cherry fruit. On the short stem flowers, the shuck falls off and no fruit remains. And again, the vast majority of my flowers are the short-stemmed ones.
Oh…my trees are on their 8th leaf now. I think that is about the age of yours?

This is such a strange thing, I wonder if it is a result of my trees getting a massive dose of 2, 4-D a few years ago. Its just a guess but I see no other reason why a productive tree would have this bizarre condition.

I was wondering about the residue of the pesticide your trees were hit with, too. Maybe, the short stems, long stems are the result of it.

@scottfsmith has a Mont, too. Maybe, he will stop by.

This is very strange as the cherries that develop on my Montmorency are all the same size stem. I have not heard of long and short on the same tree.

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Apparently no one else has based on all the net searches I’ve done. But you can see it for yourself in the photos. Forgetting for a moment that I took the photo after the white petals had already fallen off the “short stem” blooms, you can still see that there are blooms with short stems and blooms with long stems (the one that still has white petals). Only the long stem ones end up fruiting, and the problem with that is most of the blooms on my trees are short stem blooms.

@mamuang I feel like it almost has to be related to the herbicide exposure they got. Unfortunately, I keep terrible records and have a terrible memory so I’m not sure if I have had this problem ever since the exposure, whether it started before that, or whether I had some normal years after that. But just guessing, I think it pretty much coincides with that event. I know for sure I used to get tons of cherries off this tree and I know for AT LEAST the last 2-3 years I haven’t , so I’m betting its related. One more reason we should all keep good records like you do!!!

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I think some of your blooms are receiving more hormone than others, it doesn’t seem that odd for a young sour cherry to me.


I am not that good about keeping records. If your trees started to produce the short and long stems the year of or a year after it got the pesticide blast, that would make sense.

Didn’t your trees got sprayed with pesticide two years in a row (less the 2nd year)?

Which seem normal for most Monties? I can’t remember mine. It’s the first year it bloomed, only a few flowers with no set. I think they hung down, but I can’t remember.

I really hope you are right, and that is an interesting theory. But my trees are 8 years old, and when they were about 4 years old they weren’t doing this. DO you consider an 8 year old Mont to be a young tree? Do you think this will improve over time if it is a hormone thing?

@mamuang Maybe you just have a good memory then, but you seem to always remember what your trees did each year in the past and always seem to keep up with them a lot better than me. As you said, if I knew for sure that this problem only started the year after the herbacide exposure, then I’d be more confident that was the problem. But like I said, I don’t keep good records and I don’t have a good memory so I just don’t know for sure if this problem coincides with the spray. And yes, I got sprayed twice, but like you thought, the second time was much less.
I did find some articles that said trees exposed to a substantial amount of 2,4-D often store it in their roots, and then the residual chemical travels with the sugar every year for many years- going back down to the roots each fall, then rising back up into the tree each spring for years. It didn’t list my exact problem (blooms that have short stems and do not produce fruit) but in some ways it did sound like that could be my problem.

I have a 3 year old Montmorency Cherry at the small Orchard I planted at the City Park. I’ve noticed it doesn’t have any of these “short stemmed” flowers and pretty much all of its flowers became a real cherry. This confirms, to me, that it isn’t a weather issue (ie late freeze, winter injury, chill hour issue, etc) because the park is a mile from my house so that tree had the same weather mine did. Its also much younger, so the fact that it isn’t doing this makes me question if it is a young tree hormone thing or a weather thing, and lends a little more credence to the 2, 4-D exposure. But who knows.

Are you referring to this study?

Prunus in this study recovered though from 2,4-D which was applied additionally with a nasty cocktail regiment of herbicides: chlorosulfuron, 2,4-D glyphosate, 2,4-D+ glyphosate, thifensulfuron, bromoxynil - in that order.

I can’t imagine that your township would spray the maximum dosage, which seems to be the only instance where one and two year old cherries didn’t recover in the case of chlorosulfuron, 2,4-D glyphosate. Recommended mixing concentration of even one product should be 1/5 or something of maximum dosage.

Does the City Park spray at all? Presumably they should have records?

Do the cherry on your property share the same topographical layout / elevation as the city park?

(I’m assuming nutrition isn’t the limiting factor.) You may just happen to have a freak mont plant too, unlikely as that is - cross-sterility apparently exists for prunus.

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That is not what I saw, but is interesting none the less! Let me clairify some things others know but you may not.

The orchard I planted in the City park has had no problems of any kind, cherries behaved normally this year. I am the City Manager of the town so I know for sure no herbacides of any kind are sprayed there.

The 2, 4-D exposure we are talking about happened at my home orchard a few years ago. My neighbor sprayed that herbicide on his land and apparently paid no attention to wind, droplet size, etc and the result was a massive spray drift that exposed my orchard to extremely high doses. It killed about 18 of my fruit trees and it badly damaged about 10-15 others. So there is no doubt that these cherry trees received a high dose. At the time, though, they showed less evidence of being affected than most other trees did, and as I’ve said I just don’t know if this bloom problem coincides in timing with that event. Thanks for trying to help! I’m going to look into that article more now…

Ah my apologies. Forgive my newcomer status and not understanding the backstory. (Everyone seems to know everyone much better than I would have though. :slight_smile: )

If that’s the case, based on available literature that I could find on other articles, I would think that 2 years would be the max allotted time to expect a recovery - should it occur. Otherwise, it may be one of these situations where it’s permanent damage. However, I would think this would manifest itself in further declining health year by year, rather than a weird homeostasis of consistent poor health.

nono. Its all good. I knew you were fairly new here and that’s why I wanted to give you some background. We’re glad you are here, btw.

I do have a pear tree that survived the spray drift (barely) and has NEVER recovered. It is stunted, still has odd growth patterns, and has never again produced a single pear- something it DID do before the spray. So there is some evidence that 2, 4-D can have long term affects on some fruit trees. I should cut it down but I’ve left it in part so I could observe it and how long it takes (if ever) to recover.

BTW…if you are interested in seeing more about my drift exposure and the drama that went with it, here is a link to the thread about it. The title of the thread and the first few posts are what they are because at first I had no idea what was going on other than my pears had strange looking leaves…

Ah. I see. I also poorly worded my statement about recovery. When I say two years I meant that’s the timeline a lot of articles are giving to the persisting immediate symptoms of herbicide application, 6 months to 2 years.

RECOGNITION OF WEED-KILLER INJURY TO TREES, Journal of Arboriculture 4(8): August 1978

Data from Otta and Sherwood indicate recurring signs of 2,4-D injury for 6 months to 2 years following exposure. Klepper (1974) found that phenoxy herbicides interfere with plant nitrite reduction. This supports the conclusion that signs of injury can occur after the herbicide has dissipated. If the injured plant is unable to reduce nitrite, then the effects of repeated exposures become cumulative, eventually leading to plant toxicity.

So two years max out you stop seeing the immediate effects, but if presumably if it’s not showing it’s starting to recover, it’s unlikely to recover is what I gather.

There was another article somewhere about Prunus I think in the same journal from 1995 about persistent herbicide damage, but I can’t find the permalink since my tab timed out on the researchers search portal. Idea was basically the same though.