Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)

Pin Cherry

The Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), also called the Fire Cherry, Red Cherry or Bird Cherry, is a deciduous, dioecious angiosperm in the Rose Family (Rosaceae). The genus name is Latin for "plum tree." The family name comes from the Latin for "rose." The species name apparently comes from the fact that these trees are common in Pennsylvania. This tree has no commercial use although a cherry jelly or jam can be made from the fruit and some attempts at marketing this product have been made.

It can grow to a height of 50 feet (15 meters) and have a trunk diameter up to 20 inches (51 centimeters). However, most Pin Cherry trees in the area of French Hill Pond are less than half these dimensions. The Pin Cherry has a short life but produces a large number of seeds that can survive for more than 50 years before germinating. These trees sprout up rapidly after a forest fire.

The flowers are white, ½ inch (12 millimeters) wide, and comprised of five petals. They are bisexual. The flowers are on long stems that emanate from the same point on a twig in groups of three to seven. Several of these groups make up a cluster as shown in the following photograph.

Pin Cherry Flowers

The leaves are lance-shaped with with margins that are saw-toothed. They are green above and paler green below. Their lengths can be from 2½ to 4½ inches (6 to 11 centimeters) and widths from ¾ to 1¼ inches (2 to 3 centimeters). The fall color is yellow.

Pin Cherry Leaves

The smooth and thin bark is reddish-gray becoming more gray and fissured into scaly plates as the tree matures.

Pin Cherry Bark

The fruit of the Pin Cherry is a red drupe with a sour pulp about ¼ inch (6 millimeters) in diameter.

Pin Cherry Fruit

The root system of the Pin Cherry is shallow and lateral. The stone in the drupe contains a single seed. This seed along with wilted leaves and stems are toxic. They contain the poisons cyanogenic glycoside and amygdalin.  A jelly or syrup can be made from the drupes by boiling them down in water, straining out the stones (that contain the poisonous seeds) and adding sugar to taste.

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