Duke cherries experiences? sources for trees/scionwood?

Anyone have experiences with the Duke cherries that are hybrids of tart and sweet cherries?

Some examples are:

Early Duke
May Duke
Royal Duke
Late Duke
Abesse d’Oignies
Reine Hortense

I have found some information in older sources- Cherries of New York for example but would like to hear from someone who has had direct experiences with these cherries.

Also trying to find sources for trees or scionwood of Duke cherries. I think probably it will have to be a scionwood exchange or non-commercial source. The only one I have found is the Late Duke from Trees of Antiquity as far as a commercial source.


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I have grafts of what came from a scion exchange as ‘Late Duke’ and ‘Reine Hortense’ on my ‘Montmorency.’ I have unsuccessfully tried to find ‘May Duke.’ The grafts are not big enough yet that I could, say, taste a ‘Reine Hortense’ pie next to one from Mont., but I like the taste of R.H. more than a ripe Mont. for fresh eating.

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If you don’t mind me asking, what scion exchange did you get Reine Hortense and Late Duke from? Was it a local area exchange or an online one?

How do the Reine Hortense cherries taste compared to the Mont and say a typical sweet cherry? Is it more like a Mont with sugar added or like a sweet cherry with a bit of acid or something else.

Have you had any problems with brown rot and cracking?

Looking around I have found some modern Duke cherries that are recent introductions the “Kansas Sweet” and the “Almaden Duke”. I thought I saw “May Duke” on a scionwood list some years ago but I can’t remember who offered it unfortunately.


I found May Duke. It was on Nick Botner’s 2010 scionwood list. Unfortunately, he no longer sells scionwood. The apples in his collection the Temperate Orchard Conservancy saved but the cherries and other fruits… who knows.


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It appears there is a May Duke at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It’s listed as being located in their South Orchard.

Maybe they would they could let you have a few sticks of scionwood.


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One of the CRFG ones. Sorry, I don’t recall which one.

To me it really does taste like a cross between a tart and a sweet cherry. When tasting RH side-by-side ripe with a ripe Mont., the sweet cherry is noticeably more prominent in the RH. With that said, it would not be mistaken for a sweet cherry even when at its ripest.

None. But, in my locale we do not get rain during its ripening season.

I tried the ‘Almaden Duke’ at a tasting and, on that occasion, it wasn’t near as good RH.

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I’m told the folks at Vintage Virginia Apples propagated that tree at one point and were skeptical if it was true to name. There reportedly are some cherry orchards in southern California that grow it and I was hoping to track one of them down.

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Yes, I saw that, too. before the T.O.C. started offering scion for the apple collection and were not responding to inquiries. Probably worth checking back with it now . . .

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I noticed your old thread from Gardenweb in 2014 where you were looking for the May Duke. You have been looking for a long time. I hope you find it. The May Duke was highly regarded in both The Cherries of New York and the Wise Garden Encyclopedia. Of course, I would like one too :slight_smile: .

Unfortunately, being in Illinois my climate is not idea for sweet cherries especially since we can get a fair amount rain during the cherry ripening period. For me it seems the best chance of success is found with the Duke cherries and old “Heart” type sweet cherries like Black Tartarian. It is really unfortunate that these cultivars are not more widely available.


Yes. Thank you!

If I find a source, I’ll let you know. Of course, I’m happy to try to find a decent-sized stick off my RH or look for it again at a scion exchange if you are trying to add it. ‘Belle Magnifique’ is another duke which is often available,although I think it ripens earlier.

I cannot offer any useful suggestion on good varieties for your climate (perhaps others here can), but for me the dukes and Mont. are much later than my sweet cherries which I suspect would be helpful to avoid spring rain problems. Taste-wise, I think Black Tartarian is still one of the best.

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I contacted the Temperature Orchard Conservancy about the May Duke. They do not have the May Duke in their collection. However, they do have other cherries. In the future, when the trees are bigger I think their going to offer scionwood. They referred me to The Arboreum Company and I have sent them a email asking about the May Duke.

Taste-wise, I think Black Tartarian is still one of the best.

I am glad to hear this. I am thinking about buying a tree with Black Tartarian on it.

If I find a source, I’ll let you know. Of course, I’m happy to try to find a decent-sized stick off my RH or look for it again at a scion exchange if you are trying to add it. ‘Belle Magnifique’ is another duke which is often available,although I think it ripens earlier.

That is very kind of you to offer. I think I will take you up on your offer. I want to compensate you for the scion and shipping. I will send a private message to you with contact info.

By coincidence, I asked Arboreum the same question a few years back. At that time, it wasn’t able to provide a source, but hopefully something has changed for the better.

Thank you. That is considerate, but unnecessary. I’ll reply to your PM in more detail.

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Late Duke was available at the scion exchange of the CRFG Santa Clara chapter in 2018. I have picked a stick, so it’s in my records. As @Vohd said above, Belle Magnifique is often available.

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Thanks for letting me know.


Did anyone ever find May Duke? I read up on it in google as a result of this post and now I would love to try it. Here is what I found it to be known for:

sweetness - when picked fully ripe, turning dark
climatic versatility - both warm and cold
flavor - considered the best of the Dukes in some sources
history - was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Was the original Duke cherry, getting its name from a corruption of Medoc, a French area on the Atlantic coast
vigor - a strong growing tree, known for health

“thriving almost equally well in cold or warm climates” - William Barnes, 1900

“The tastiest of all is a little-known cultivar that crosses both the sweet and sour species to create a flavour-packed fusion that’s the best of both worlds. ‘May Duke’ is a blood red, intensely sweet cherry whose high sugar content is balanced by bracing acidity, like those sour childhood sweets. It is a heavy cropper, too, kicking out generous harvests each June.” - James Wong, food critic, UK, 2015

It looks like they sell it in the UK at several nurseries. What is the process for it being brought back to the USA? I imagine that has hurdles, both regulatory as well as high cost?

I haven’t found the May Duke. I did order the Late Duke and Black Tartarian from Trees of Antiquity and then planted them this Spring.

Importing is really not an option for most of us. It could work for a grower who wanted to sell trees. When you import a tree it has to go into quarantine and be cleaned of viruses. This process can take 5-10 years which is a long time for most of us. The government actually picks up the costs as I understand it but still it’s a long wait. You could look at some of the other Dukes discussed in this thread, many of them are available from specialty vendors.

I am sure it exists somewhere in the states and could be rediscovered. I agree, backyard enthusiasts are not going to tackle the regulatory hurdles. Too bad that one got lost, it sounds wonderful. Thanks for raising awareness on it.

Other than Late Duke at the Trees of Antiquity, are there any other Duke varieties offered as bareroot trees by anyone? I’m in search of a sour cherry for fresh eating, to be grown in California. Thanks in advance.

The Arboreum Company carries heirloom varieties of cherries including Dukes. They carry Belle Magnifique which is a Duke cherry. Raintree nursery also carries the Almaden Duke which is a modern Duke cherry.

Unfortunately they are sold out as are most mail order nurseries for bareroot fruit trees. I think you will probably have to wait until next Fall to order a Duke cherry tree. In California there may be local vendors that still have trees but I am not aware of any.

Looks like I have a Duke cherry that ripens in May. The birds left for me 2 cherries. Here is one of them. The scions were collected from Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill in 2015. At the time Andy called them Duke, and that’s how I labeled them.