Pin Cherry, Prunus pensylvanica

Pin Cherry

Prunus pensylvanica

Benefits: Pollinator Benefit Graphic
Sun Shade: Plant Light Requirements Graphic
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Early Summer
Hardiness Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Soil Conditions: Loam
Soil Moisture: Dry, Medium
Color: White
Fragrance: Yes
Height: 20-30 feet
Spacing: 15-20 feet

Pin Cherry, Prunus pennsylvanica, forms a small tree, up to 30 feet in height in our area. The tree occurs in sandy clearings, shores, and plains; borders of forests and fields and in open (rarely swampy) forests, usually with aspen, white birch, and/or jack pine. It has a straight trunk and a narrow, but rounded top crown. Branches first ascend and then become horizontal.

The bark is shiny reddish-brown to grayish-brown that has numerous horizontal fissures called lenticels. The bark may peel off in horizontal strips. Twigs are slender and reddish-brown like the young bark. The spring buds are also reddish-brown and there will be a cluster of them at the branch tips while the lateral buds are single and held close to the twig. Leaves are alternate and simple, lanceolate in shape, 1.5 to 5 inches long, with long pointed tips. Leaf margins have fine teeth, surfaces are bright green above, paler under, each stalked and stalks usually have 2 glandular dots near leaf base. Fall color is yellow. Leaves appear just after the flowers open.

Pin Cherry has attractive and conspicuous in bloom late in the spring. Flowers occur in small umbels with 5 to 7 flowers per umbel all with equal length stalks. Individual flowers have 5 rounded white petals and numerous extended stamens with deep yellow anthers. Flowers mature to a small sour drupe, no more than 1/3-inch long, that contains a single hard seed. Seeds contain cyanide compounds but these can be removed and then any traces can be dissipated by cooking the pulp. The cherries are small and very sour, but they are often numerous and they make good jelly.

This species is well known for invading aggressively after forest fires, and is otherwise often found on sandy soils of low productivity. Prunus pensylvanica is distributed throughout Wisconsin.

Pin Cherry grows from a shallow root system with many lateral roots. Plants are rapid growers but are short lived, usually 20 to 40 years, but can begin fruiting in two years. Seeds are dispersed by birds and other small creatures and are viable for many years. It grows on a variety of soils as long as there is plenty of sun and adequate moisture. Dry soils will produce a shrub instead of a tree.

 Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  Pin cherry regenerates by both seed and sprouts.
  Pin cherry has a shallow root system.
   Pin cherry is short lived maturing rapidly and dying off at 20 to 40 years.
  An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of fevers, bronchitis, coughs and colds, infections and blood poisoning.
  A decoction of the inner bark has been used in the treatment of laryngitis.
   A poultice of the boiled, shredded inner bark has been applied to a bleeding umbilical cord[257]. An infusion of the inner bark has been used as an eye wash for sore eyes.
  The astringent root bark has been used as a wash on old sores and ulcers.
  A decoction of the root has been used as a treatment for stomach pains.
  The fruit is often used domestically in the preparation of cough mixtures.
 Further Information

 Wisconsin Fruit Trees
 Wisconsin Edible Berry Shrubs
 Widsconsin Edible Plants-Eat On The Wild Side
 8 Dandelion Recipes
 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries

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