Prunus AVIUM Linnaeus.                                                Mazzard fruit mini                             HOME  Avium flowers mini picture

1. Linnaeus Fl. Suec. ed. 2: 165. 1755.
P. nigricans. 2. Ehrhart Beity. 7: 126. 1792.
P. varia. 3. Ehrhart l.c. 127. 1792.
P. sylvestris. 4. Persoon Syn. P1. 2:35. 1807.
P. dulcis. S. Miller ex Reichenbach Fl. Germ. Exc. 644 1832.
Cerasus nigra. 6. Miller Gayd. Dict. ed. 8: No. 2. 1768.
C. Avium. 7. Moench Meth. 672. 1794.
C. varia. 8. Borkhausen, in Roemer Arch. 1., 2:38. 1796.
C. Juliana. 9. De Candolle Fl. Fran. 4:483. 1805.
C. duracina. 10. De Candolle l.c. 1805.
C. rubicunda. 11. Bechstein Forsib. 160, 335. 1810.
C. intermedia. 22. Host Fl. Austr. 2:7. 1831, not Loisel. in Duham. 1812.
C. decumana. 23. Delaunay ex Seringe, in De Candolle Prodr. 2:536. 1825.
C. macrophylla. 14. Sweet Hort. Brit. ed. 1:485. 1827.
C. dulcis. 15. Borkhausen ex Steudel Nom. Bot. ed. see., 1:331. 1840.
C. pallida. 16. Roemer Syn. Rosifl. 69. 1847.
C. heterophylla. 17. Hort. ex Koch Dendrol. 1: 106. 1869.
C. asplenifolia. 28. Hort. ex Koch l.C. 1869.
C. salicifolia. 19. Hort. ex Koch l.C. 1869, not Ser. in De Candolle. 1825.

Tree reaching a height of thirty to forty feet, vigorous, upright-spreading, open-topped, semi-hardy, usually with a central leader; trunk a foot or more in diameter roughened; branches rather stocky, smooth, dull ash-gray, with few small lenticels; branchlets thick, long, with long internodes, grayish-brown, smooth, with small, inconspicuous lenticels.

Leaves resinous at opening, more or less drooping, numerous, four to six inches long, two to three inches wide, strongly condulplicate, oblong-ovate, thin; upper surface dark green, rugose or sometimes smooth; lower surface dull green, more or less pubescent; apex acute, base more or less abrupt; margin coarsely and doubly serrate, glandular; petiole one and three-fourths inches long, slender, dull red, with from one to three small, globose, reddish glands on the stalk; stipules small, lanceolate, finely serrate, early caducous.

Buds rather small, of medium length, pointed, appressed or free, arranged singly or in small, scaly clusters at the tips of branchlets or on short spurs; leaf-scars prominent; blooming with or after the leaves; flowers white, one and one-quarter inches across; in clusters of two or three; pedicels one inch long, slender, glabrous; calyx-tube green or with a faint red tinge, brownish-yellow within, campanulate; calyx-lobes faintly tinged with red, long, acute, margin serrate, glabrous within and without, reflexed; petals oval, entire or crenate, tapering to a short, blunt claw; stamens nearly one-half inch long, thirty-five or thirty-six; anthers yellow; pistil glabrous, shorter than the stamens.

Fruit ripening in early July; about an inch in diameter, cordate; cavity deep, wide, abrupt; suture a line; apex roundish or pointed; color ranging from yellow through red to purplish-black; dots numerous, small, russet, inconspicuous; stem tinged with red, one and one-half inches long, adherent to the fruit; skin toughish, adherent to the pulp; flesh yellow, red, or dark purple with colorless or colored juice, tender to firm, sweet; stone semi-clinging, three-eighths of an inch long, not as wide as long, elliptical, flattened, blunt, with smooth surfaces.

Through its cultivated varieties Prunus avium is everywhere known in temperate climates as the Sweet Cherry. In the wild state it is variously called Mazzard, Bird, Wild, Crab and the Gean cherry. It is not as hardy a species as Prunus cerasus and is, therefore, less generally grown but still is a favorite orchard, dooryard and roadside plant in all mid-temperate regions. It refuses to grow, however, in the warmest and coldest parts of the temperate zones. Wherever the species thrives as an orchard plant it is to be found growing spontaneously along fences and roadsides and in open woods from seeds distributed by birds. The fruits of these wild Sweet Cherries are usually small and the flesh thin and dry, often unpalatable; but, on the other hand, trees are sometimes found as escapes from cultivation which rival in their products the orchard-grown cherries. It is from reverted seedlings that the description of the species herewith given has been made. The number of cultivated varieties of Prunus avium listed in The Cherries of New York is 549.

The habitat of the species and its history as a cultivated plant are given in the following chapter. A further point of horticultural interest as regards its habitat is that wherever found truly wild, as in its original home in southern and central Europe and Asia Minor, it is to be found in moderately dry, calcareous soils and seldom in the shade, preferring always warm, sunny sites, as gravely or stony hillsides. These predilections cling to the species in its cultivated varieties. Prunus avium differs from Prunus cerasus in an important horticultural character as the two species grow spontaneously -the former suckers from the root little or not at all, making it a suitable plant for a stock in orchard work, while the latter suckers so much as to make it unfit for use as a stock.

Prunus avium is variously divided by botanists and pomologists. Whatever distinct forms of the species may exist in the wild state, they are now interminably confused by hybridization under cultivation. It is impossible to divide the species into botanical varieties from the characters of the horticultural varieties, as many botanists have attempted to do. The species can be roughly divided into two pomological groups, the distinguishing character being the texture of the flesh.

Sweet Cherries with soft, tender flesh form one group known by pomologists under the French group name Guigne or the English Gean. These are also the Heart cherries of common parlance. These soft- fruited cherries may again be divided into dark colored varieties with reddish juice and light colored sorts with colorless juice. Typical light colored Geans are Coe, Ida, Elton and Waterloo; dark colored ones are Black Tartarian, Early Purple and Eagle. It is to this group of cherries that Linnaeus gave the varietal name Juliana and De Candolle the specific name CerasusJuliana.

The second group is distinguished by the firm, breaking flesh of the fruits-the Bigarreaus of several languages, the name originally having reference to the diverse colors of the fruits. This group is further divisible in accordance with color, of fruit and juice into black Bigarreaus and light Bigarreaus. Chief of the black cherries falling into this division are Windsor, Schmidt and Mezel; of the light ones, which are much more numerous, Yellow Spanish and Napoleon are representative sorts. Linnaeus called these hard-fleshed cherries Prunus aviumduracina; De Candolle called them Cerasus duracina; K. Koch, Prunusaviumdecumana; and Roemer, Cerasus bigarella.

Besides these two orchard forms of Prunus avium several other horticultural forms, quite as distinct or even more so, are grown as ornamentals, some of which are listed as distinct species or as botanical varieties of Prunus avium. To add to the confusion, a number of Latinized garden names are more or less commonly applied to these ornamental Sweet Cherries. Schneider,1 in revising the genus Prunus, names four botanical forms of Prunus avium and two natural hybrids with other species.

1Schneider, C. K. Handb. Laubh. 1: 1906; 2: 1912.