Prunus avium

17 Oct

Prunus avium autumn leaf (08/10/2011, Horní Bečva, Czech)

Prunus avium autumn leaf (08/10/2011, Horní Bečva, Czech)

Position: Full sun 

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Well Drained

Eventual Height: 12m

Eventual Spread: 8m

Hardiness: 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b

Family: Rosaceae

Prunus avium, is a medium sized, native, deciduous tree with a bushy habit and neat rounded crown. It’s foliage is green in Spring and Summer, becoming orange and red in Autumn. The leaves are alternate, simple ovoid-acute, up to 14cm long and 7cm broad, glabrous mat or sub-shiny green above, variably finely downy beneath, with a serrated margin and an acuminate tip. The leaves have a green to reddish petiole 3cm long.  The bark of the tree is smooth brown, bearing the distinctive Cherry rings around the trunk, becoming more fissured on older trees. The trunk of this tree may achieve a diameter of 1.5m. A profusion of hermaphrodite flowers are produced in early spring, at the same time as the new leaves. They are borne in corymbs  of two to six, with 5 pure white petals, yellowish stamens and a superior ovary. The fruit is a drupe 1-2 cm in diameter, becoming bright red to dark purple when mature in mid-summer and contains a hard shelled stone which contains the seed. The trunk is straight in appearance.

Prunus avium commonly known as the Wild Cherry or Sweet cherry, is native to Europe, west Turkey, northwest Africa and western Asia, including the UK. There is also a small disjunct population in the western Himalayas. The early history of its classification is somewhat confused. In the first edition of Species Plantarum, published 1753, Linnaeus treated it only as a variety. It was then changed from a variety, to the Species Prunus avium in the second edition of his Flora Suecica in 1755. P. avium has long been cultivated for the production of the edible Cherry; 800BC in Asia Minor. All parts of the tree are slightly toxic apart from the ripe fruit.

The etymological root of the binomial name for Prunus is the classical Latin name of the plum tree. Avium is derived from the Latin avium meaning ‘wild or wilderness’. There are numerous references to avium being derived from the Latin avis meaning ‘bird’ but I believe this to be incorrect. I would welcome reader feedback on this topic.
Prunus avium (08/10/2011, Horní Bečva, Czech)

Prunus avium (08/10/2011, Horní Bečva, Czech)

The landscape architect may find Prunus avium useful as an attractive flowering native parkland tree. Care should be taken when locating this tree as some of it’s roots are shallow and may deform tarmac or be hit by lawn mowers, which will encourage this tree to sucker. P. avium is also useful in a wildlife garden or community allotment due to it’s native provenance and edible fruit.

Ecologically the fruit of Prunus avium are eaten by numerous birds and mammals; which disperse it’s seed. The leaves provide food for some animals including species of Lepidoptera.

Prunus avium has been awarded the RHS award of garden merit 1993.

Prunus avium prefers well drained fertile soils. It will tolerate most soils but has a preference for neutral to lime rich soils.

Prunus avium requires little maintenance. Pruning should be carried out after flowering, from April to July to minimise the risk of Silver leaf infection.


One Response to “Prunus avium”

  1. Stewart 09/02/2017 at 23:58 #

    With regardless to the etymology of the epithet avium, the bird meaning fits grammatically – avium is the genitive plural of avis (bird) making Linnaeus’s Cerasus avium cherry of the birds, or in idiomatic English bird cherry (even if English uses bird cherry for Prunus padus and wild cherry for Prunus avium). None of the cases when the inflected form of avium (wilderness, etc) is avium make grammatical sense to me – the epithet should be an adjective, the genitive of a noun, or (the nominative case of) a noun in apposition (generally an old or vernacular name for the species – technically avium may qualify, but I can’t think of a parallel case offhand). Wilderness cherry would be Prunus avii or possibly Prunus aviorum (cherry of wild places).

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