Tree identification – Black cherry


I have this tree growing in the back of my garden. I think it is a cherry tree, but not sure. Plan to move it to a sunnier location if it is,


Your tree appears to be a black cherry (Prunus serotina).   Yale University’s Yale Nature Walk, Wild black cherry includes some photos of the flowers.

When mature, in ideal conditions, the tree can grow 18-27 metres (60-90 feet) in height, with a spread of 11-15 metres (35-50 feet).  Where growing seasons are shorter, it can be more shrub-like.  It is happiest in full sun, but can grow in partial shade.  It prefers rich, moist soil that drains well and is not compacted.  Mulching can help keep its root area cool, as the tree does not do well in spots where heat is excessive.

If you do move the tree, remember to place it away from sidewalks and pavement, as the fruits will stain as they fall, and attract birds and other small animals like raccoons, squirrels and mice, which can make a mess under the tree.  As well, lots of caterpillars munch on the fruit.  See Iowa State University Natural Resource Stewardship Black cherry.

Be careful if you transplant the tree, as its root system is quite shallow and easily damaged.   See SF Gate’s How to transplant black cherry saplings for more information.  The best time to transplant is in the early spring.  To minimize transplant shock, make sure the soil is nice and crumbly and drains well, and soak the tree roots in water before planting.  Be careful not to cut the roots, as they store nutrients for the plant and cutting them could make the tree more susceptible to disease.  When the transplanting is finished, do not stomp the soil surrounding the tree – it does not like compacted soil, which drains poorly.  And if you plan to use fertilizer, don’t do so until new shoots are at least 10 cm (4 inches) long.  Finally, don’t mulch until the tree is well-established, as mulch can keep the soil unpleasantly cold and wet for the newly transplanted tree.  If you do mulch, apply it loosely in a ring-shaped layer around the trunk, leaving 15-30 centimetres (6-12 inches) between the mulch and the tree trunk, to ensure the mulch does not adversely affect the health of the tree.  Too often, we see mulch placed in mounds that are piled up right against the tree trunk, which is not healthy for the tree, as mulch retains moisture and can promote rotting of the tree bark.

Enjoy your lovely tree!