Characteristics of Sweet Cherry Tree (Prunus avium) in the Wild

Prunus avium
Sweet cherry or Wild cherry (Prunus avium) is native to Europe, Anatolia, Maghreb, and West Asia. This species is widely cultivated in other areas outside of its native habitat and has naturalized in North America and Australia.

Sweet cherries are historically known as Gean or Mazzard. To this day, both are still alternative common names despite being obsolete in modern English.

In each country, the general name for Prunus avium varies widely, for example in Southeast Asia it is known as Vietnamese Cherry, although it has nothing to do with that country.

This tree is often cultivated as a fruit-producing tree as well as an ornamental tree. Because of its large size, this tree is planted more in the garden than in the yard. In Asia, the sweet cherry tree is also often used as a bonsai species because it has characteristics suitable for the art of bonsai.

Sweet cherries have been in human food for several thousand years. Its fossils have been found in deposits in Bronze Age settlements throughout Europe, including in England. In one dated example, sweet cherry macrofossils were found in core samples from detritus beneath settlements on Early and Middle Bronze Age pile sites and on the shores of a former lake in Desenzano del Garda or Lonato, near the southern shore of Lake Garda, Italy. The date is estimated to be 2077 BC with plus or minus 10 years.

In 800 BC, the sweet cherry trees were actively cultivated in Asia Minor, and soon in Greece.

As the main ancestor of cultivated cherries, sweet cherries are one of two cherry species that supply most of the commercial edible cherry cultivars in the world.

Various cultivars of cherry are now grown all over the world with suitable climates. Sweet cherry also escapes cultivation and becomes naturalized in several temperate regions, including southwestern Canada, Japan, New Zealand, as well as in the northeast and northwest of the United States.


Characteristics of Sweet Cherry Leaf

Prunus avium Leaf

Sweet cherry has alternate leaves, simple, ovate, 7-14 cm long and 4-7 cm wide, downy down, with serrated margins and sharp tips. The petiole is 2-3 cm long green or reddish with two to five small red glands. The ridged tip of each leaf also contains small red glands. In fall, the leaves turn orange, pink, or red before falling.


Characteristics of Sweet Cherry Flower

Prunus avium Flower
Source: Simon

The flowers appear in early spring at the same time as new leaves, borne in corymbs of 2-6 together, each flower with a flower diameter between 2-5 cm, five white petals, yellowish stamens, and superior ovaries, they are hermaphrodites and are pollinated by bees. The ovary contains two ovules, and the only one will become seeds.


Characteristics of Sweet Cherry

Prunus avium Fruit
Source: Kilner

Sweet cherries 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter, dark red when ripe in midsummer, are edible, and vary in taste from sweet to mildly bitter. Each fruit contains one hard seed 8-12 mm long, 7-10 mm wide, and 6-8 mm thick, and grooved.

The sweet cherry is loved by a wide variety of birds and mammals, who digest the pulp and scatter the seeds in their droppings. Because of this, the fruit is also sometimes referred to as a Birds Cherry.


Characteristics of Sweet Cherry Tree

Prunus avium Tree

The sweet cherry is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 30 meters in the wild, with a shaky trunk of up to 1.5 meters. Young trees have apical growth with straight trunks and asymmetrical cone-shaped crown, and when the tree is old the macro will form slightly rounded to the irregular shape.


The wood is hard, reddish-brown, and valued as hardwood for woodturning.

Sweet cherry is used widely in Europe for afforestation of agricultural land and is also valued for wildlife habitat.

The processed fruit stalk can produce medicine because it is astringent, antitussive, and diuretic.

The sap from the bark wounds smells good and can be chewed as a substitute for chewing gum.


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