1. Linnaeus Sp. P1. 474. 1753. 2. Bailey Cyc. Am. Hort. 3:1451-1901.
3. Schneider Handb. Laubh. 1:617. 1906.
Cerasus mahaleb. 4. Miller Gard. Dict. ed. 8: No. 4. 1759.
Padus mahaleb. 5. Borkhausen Handb. Forstb. 2: 1434. 1803.
Tree small, slender, vigorous, upright-spreading, open-topped; branches roughened, ash-gray over reddish-brown; branchlets numerous, slender and firm-wooded, with short internodes, dull gray, glabrous, with very numerous large, raised lenticels.
Leaves numerous, an inch in length, one and one-fourth inches wide, ovate to obovate, thick, leathery; upper surface dark green, glossy, smooth; lower surface light green, slightly pubescent along the midrib; apex and base abrupt; margin finely crenate, with reddish-brown glands; petiole one-half inch long, slender, greenish, with none or with from one to three small, globose, greenish glands variable in position.
Buds small, short, obtuse, appressed or free, arranged singly as lateral buds and in clusters on small, slender spurs; flowers appearing late, after the leaves, small, average in., one-half inch across, white, fragrant; borne in clusters of six to eight scattered on a main stem an inch in length, with the terminal pedicels one-quarter inch long and basal pedicels one-half inch long; pedicels slender, glabrous, greenish; calyx-tube green, campanulate, glabrous; calyx-lobes narrow, entire, glabrous, reflexed; petals white, small, separated, ovate, tapering to short, narrow claws; filaments one-fourth inch long; pistil glabrous, about equal to the stamens in length.
Fruit matures about the middle of July; very small, one-fourth inch long, one-third inch wide, roundish-ovate; cavity shallow and abrupt; suture shallow or a mere line; apex roundish to slightly pointed, with stigma usually adherent; color black; stem slender, length of corymb about one and one-half inches; length of fruit-stem about one-quarter inch; skin thick, tough; flesh reddish-black, with scant reddish-black juice, tender and soft, very astringent, sour, not edible; stone free or nearly so, very small, averaging nine thirty-seconds inch long and seven thirty-seconds inch wide, ovate, slightly flattened, with pointed apex; ventral suture prominent.
Prunus mahaleb is now a wild inhabitant of all southern Europe as far north as central France, southern Germany, Austria-Hungary and eastward through Asia Minor and Caucasia to and within the borders of Turkestan. Wherever it grows spontaneously in the Old World it is said to prefer rocky, gravelly, sunny slopes and the climate in which the grape thrives best. Wild or cultivated, the Mahaleb is a shallow-rooted plant, a fact that must be taken into consideration in its use as a stock.
Prunus mahaleb is a common escape from cultivation in eastern North America especially about the nursery centers of central New York.
The Mahaleb, or St. Lucie cherry, is of no importance to fruit-growers for its fruit but as a consort with nearly all of the Sweet and Sour Cherries now being propagated in North America it becomes of prime importance and so receives botanical consideration here. According to Schneider, in the reference cited, there are several spontaneous forms of Prunus mahaleb and also several horticultural varieties grown as ornamentals. None of these, wild or cultivated, are of interest to fruit-growers, unless, perchance some one of them should prove to be a better stock upon which to work orchard cherries. Mahaleb stocks are usually grown as seedlings but may also be propagated from root cuttings.
The wood of the Mahaleb tree is of value in cabinet making, possessing among other good qualities a pleasant and lasting odor. The leaves, too, are odoriferous and are more or less used in France in the manufacture of perfumes and in cookery to give savor to sauces.