Cherry trees are part of the genus Prunus and are fruit trees. They are native to northern temperate regions in North America, Europe, and Asia, and they produce beautiful white or pink flowers in spring. Cherry trees can be grown as small trees or fans trained flat against a wall or fence, but they require regular pruning to keep them in good shape and fruiting well.
The Cherry tree is one of my personal favourite trees, they have a bounty of beautiful blossoms (Albeit short lived) and can come in a variety of shapes to accommodate a wide range of spaces. A particular favourite variety of mine is the ‘Amanagawa’, this variety is fastigiate (Upright form) which remains slender and doesn’t require a lot of space for smaller areas.
In this blog, we will explore some interesting facts about the cherry tree, such as:
The different types of cherry trees and their fruits
The value of cherry trees for wildlife and humans
The threats and challenges facing cherry trees.
Types of Cherry Trees and Their Fruits
There are around 430 different species of cherry trees, and they can be divided into two main groups: sweet cherries (Prunus avium) and sour cherries (Prunus cerasus). Sweet cherries are usually eaten fresh or used for desserts, while sour cherries are more suitable for cooking, jam making, or liqueur production.
Some of the most popular varieties of sweet cherries include:
Bing: large, dark red, firm, and juicy cherries with a sweet flavour
Rainier: yellow-skinned cherries with a red blush and a delicate, sweet taste.
Stella: self-fertile cherries that are dark red, firm, and sweet.
Some of the most common varieties of sour cherries include:
Montmorency: bright red, tart cherries that are widely used for pies and preserves.
Morello: dark red to black cherries with a sour flavour and a high juice content.
Nanking: small, bright red cherries that are edible but mainly grown as ornamental plants.
Cherry fruits are not only delicious but also nutritious. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, fibre, and melatonin. They have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties, and they can help improve sleep quality, reduce muscle soreness, and lower blood pressure.
Value of Cherry Trees for Wildlife and Humans
Cherry trees are not only valuable for their fruits but also for their flowers and foliage. The spring flowers provide an early source of nectar and pollen for bees; while the cherries are eaten by birds, such as the blackbird and song thrush; as well as mammals, such as the badger, wood mouse, yellow-necked mouse and dormouse. The foliage is the main food plant for caterpillars of many species of moth, including the cherry fruit and cherry bark moths, the orchard ermine, brimstone and short-cloaked moth.
Cherry trees also have cultural and aesthetic value for humans. They have been cultivated for thousands of years in many countries around the world. In Japan, cherry blossoms (sakura) are a symbol of beauty, impermanence, and spring. They are celebrated with festivals (hanami) where people enjoy picnics under the blooming trees. In China, cherry blossoms represent feminine beauty and love. They are associated with the goddess of compassion (Guanyin). In Korea, cherry blossoms signify purity and hope. They are linked to the legend of a fairy who descended from heaven on a blossom-laden branch.
Cherry trees also have medicinal and industrial uses. The bark of wild cherry (Prunus serotina) has been used as a cough remedy by Native Americans. The wood of cherry trees is valued for its fine grain, colour, and durability. It is used for furniture making, musical instruments, carving, and smoking food.
Threats and Challenges Facing Cherry Trees
Cherry trees face several threats and challenges in their natural habitats. Some of these include:
Climate change: warmer temperatures may affect the timing of flowering and fruiting of cherry trees. This may disrupt their pollination by insects or their dispersal by animals. It may also expose them to more pests and diseases that thrive in warmer conditions.
Habitat loss: deforestation, urbanization, agriculture, mining, and other human activities may reduce the available space for cherry trees to grow. This may fragment their populations and reduce their genetic diversity.
Pests and diseases: cherry trees are susceptible to various pests and diseases that can damage their leaves, flowers, fruits, bark, or roots. Some examples are aphids, scale insects, cherry fruit fly, cherry blackfly, bacterial canker, brown rot, silver leaf, and root rot.
To protect cherry trees from these threats, it is important to conserve their natural habitats, plant more native varieties, use organic methods to control pests and diseases, and monitor their health regularly.
Cherry trees are wonderful plants that offer many benefits for wildlife and humans. They produce beautiful flowers and delicious fruits that have various uses and meanings. They also face some challenges that require our attention and care. By learning more about cherry trees and appreciating their value we can help ensure their survival and enjoyment for generations to come.