Improved or hybrid American black cherry?

Are there any improved or otherwise named varieties of black cherry (prunus serotina), or hybrids of it and a cultivated species? There is some commercial production of black cherry, as I’ve seen black cherry juice sold even in places like Walmart, so my assumption is that the must be improved varieties. Similarly, the taste of black cherry is quite distinct and the tree has a very wide range and high adaptability and vigor, but the fruit is very small, a combination that just begs for hybridisation with larger fruited prunus species. I can’t imagine no one has got around to doing just that after all these years.

And yet, I see nothing online.


I may be wrong, but I believe “black cherry” juice commonly refers to a certain taste rather than a specific tree. I don’t think it has anything to do with black cherry, the lumber tree. Yes, they have small cherries, but their uses are limited. Much like “blue raspberry” flavor does not really refer to an actual raspberry type, I think most “black cherry” flavor is either artificial or just sweet cherry juice with added dark coloring.


That’s not the case. I had thought something similar at first, but no.

The juice being sold tastes just like the cherries from prunus serotina, which is a very particular flavor not at all like prunus avium, and no flavorings are listed in the ingredients.

So someone is farming black cherry, and quite a bit, given who is selling it.

I don’t think it’s serotina, either. Could easily even be a blend of Morello, marasca, etc. with sweeter dark-colored cherries. Serotina as is would be practically impossible to harvest, economically.
A polish nursery has a wild selection that keeps fruit attached until drying on the cluster like raisins.
University of Minnesota had a suspected hybrid of serotina; ‘Zumbra’ or ‘Nicollet’, I don’t remember. I contacted them in early 1980’s to get some scion of it, he checked around and found that area had been cleared decades earlier, nothing saved. :expressionless:

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I thought serotina and the Saskatchewan bush cherries would make good potential hybrids, both tetraploids, serotina blooms about 2 weeks after the bush cherries, here…

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@randyks Sounds like you have a breeding project on your hands!


Ive eaten the fruit of prunus serotona. Quite tart and astringent. I think those qualities will make it a good addition to a batch of hard cider. I have a few on my property and they set a decent amount of fruit, so it should be a thing this year. I agree with WildApple, sounds like a great breeding project.


I agree, a great breeding project! For someone else… :grin:

I hate to be a bummer, but I have quite a few black cherry, pin cherry, sour cherry, and sweet cherries on the property, I don’t see any potential for black cherry. If you grew up tasting the little clusters of fruit, seeing the growing habit of the tree, and the fruiting habits, you would know the various varieties of sweet cherries already available are light years ahead of black cherry.

There ARE many accounts of serotinas with higher quality fruit. This was discussed a while back on a thread about roadside Prunus. All of the ones I’ve tried have been astringent, so I can’t add much to that discussion. Serotona fruits do have potential though, IMO.

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The largest I’ve seen was about 3/8 to 7/16 inch diameter. This was near Emporia Virginia in 1983. I wish I could go back and find that tree. It was behind the remote phone office I was working in.

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Have grown all the above and more, have to disagree with your assessment of serotina. Here, it has tasty, non-astringent fruit when ripe. Never gets diseased when nearby prunus develop fungal and bacterial blights, gummosis especially. Has strong survival traits, strong, fast growth, extremely cold-hardy. Healthy in alkaline, heavy clay soil. I think it would make an excellent parent.


That may be true, in your area.

Here in eastern NC, sweet cherries, sour cherries, pin cherries, etc are tasteless–and by tasteless I mean you can’t taste them because they die before producing fruit. Even under a massive chemical warfare regime, they find grow well and it’s just a question of time before the trees give up and die. Black cherry, on the other hand, is one of our most common pioneer trees. It’s really hot and humid and occasionally very dry here, a death sentence to pretty much any cherry expect serotina (even the ornamental cherries really struggle here). Find me another cherry species that grows in Newfoundland and Ontario, to Arizona and Florida, and down into Mexico and Guatemala! Heck, find me a single other species of plant that has that crazy of a climatic adaptability.

To you other point, I did grow up eating them, and I really like how they taste, at least the ones in our area. Yes, they’re not very sweet, but that’s the typical wild vs commercial distinction, flavor vs sweet. And the flavor is very distinct, I don’t think it tastes like other cherries. The closest thing I’ve found is the smell of crushed torreya taxifolia leaves. I’ve been told the Eurasian bird cherries have a similar flavor, but I’ve not had them myself.

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How do choke.cherries do in your area? They seem as rough or tougher than serotina. Around here, they tend to have somewhat better flavor. I’m guessing they have a lot less amygdalin in them.

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By choke cherry you’re taking about aronia, or something else?

We have aronia melanocarpa. It isn’t very common but you do see it here and there on the margins of hardwood forests. Seems to do alright but I’ve never had fruit off them.

Ah, prunus virginiana is also choke cherry.

No, it doesn’t grow out here. Haven’t tried it myself, but judging by it’s range, I don’t have any hope that it’d survive.

I was referring to Prunus. virginiana. There was some relevant discussion on this thread:

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In my area, pin cherry trees produce nice cherries, but the trees and fruit are susceptible to many of the same pest/disease issues as other cherries.

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I’m surprised to hear that. Range maps seem to vary a bit. Looks like it’s probably less heat adapted. It grows up into the Arctic circle though

Highlight the whole state isn’t very helpful.

Yes, it grows in NC–at three thousand feet, two and a half zones cooler then me. : D

My guess is, given it’s presence in the central valley, is that it can take high temperature, but not that and humidity (and hence disease). Given that it grows in pretty dry areas out west, that would make sense.

Granted, I’m perfectly willing to try it out, I’m just not very hopeful.