1. Thunberg Fl. Jap. 203. 1784. 2. Jack Garden & Forest 5:580, fig.
99. 1892. 3. Bailey Cyc. Am. hort. 3:1451. 1901. 4. Schneider Handb. Laubh.
1601. 1906. 5. Koehne Plantae Wilsonianae Pt. 2:268. 1912.
Cerasus tomentosa. 6. Wallich Cat. No. 715. 1829.
A dwarfish, bush-like plant attaining a height of ten or twelve feet, vigorous, dense-topped, hardy; trunk and branches stocky; branches smooth, grayish-brown; branchlets many, of medium thickness and length, thickly overspread with short pubescence, with short internodes, roughish, with a few large, raised lenticels near the base.
Leaves numerous, two and one-eighth inches long, one and one-half inches wide, folded upward or flattened, broad-oval to obovate, velvety; tipper surface dull, dark green, rugose; lower surface thickly pubescent, with a prominent midrib and veins; apex abruptly pointed; margin serrate; petiole three-sixteenths inch in length, reddish, pubescent, of medium thickness, with from twelve to fourteen small, globose, yellow glands, usually at the base of the blade.
Buds very small, short, pointed, free, arranged as lateral buds and in clusters on small, short spurs; leaf-scars not prominent; season of bloom early; flowers appear with the leaves, white, thirteenth-sixteenths inch across; borne singly or in pairs; pedicels short, thick, glabrous; calyx-tube reddish, campanulate, glabrous; calyx-lobes narrow, acute, serrate, slightly pubescent, erect; petals white, roundish-ovate, entire, with short claws; anthers tinged with red; pistil pubescent at the base, longer than the stamens, often defective.
Fruit matures in mid-season; a half-inch in diameter, roundish, slightly compressed; cavity deep, narrow, abrupt; suture shallow; apex depressed, with adherent stigma; color currant-red; dots numerous, small, grayish, obscure; stem thickish, one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch in length, pubescent; skin thick, tender, adheres slightly to the pulp, covered with light pubescence; flesh light red, with light red juice, stringy, melting, sprightly, sour; good in quality; stone clinging, one-quarter of an inch long, one-eighth inch wide, oval slightly pointed, with smooth surfaces.
The habitat of Prunus tomentosa is probably Central Asia though it is now to be found growing spontaneously in East Tibet and the Chinese provinces of Setschuan, Hupe, Kansu and perhaps Tochlii.
This shrub-like cherry is very generally cultivated in central, eastern and northern China and in Japan for its fruit and as an ornamental. It has been introduced into cultivation in many widely separated places in North America and appears to be promising for cold regions, both bud and wood withstanding perfectly the most rigorous climates of the United States. As it grows in America it is a bush and never a true tree. It is a twiggy, close-jointed plant, usually with many stems springing from the ground and these bearing branches quite to the base. Frequently these low-growing branches bend to the ground and take root forming new plants. The bushes are thickly clothed with leaves densely tomentose on the underside, in this respect and in shape, as well, very unlike the foliage of common cultivated cherries. The flowers appear in great abundance with the leaves, making a handsome ornamental; they are white, becoming rose-colored as they fall away. The fruit ripens in mid-season for cherries, setting profusely from the many blossoms. The cherries are a half-inch in diameter, bright currant-red, covered with inconspicuous hairs and contain a stone of medium size, They are pleasantly acid, very juicy and withal a decided addition to cultivated cherries. Prunus tomentosa seems a most promising plant for domestication and of particular merit for small gardens and cold regions.
Koehne, in his list of cherries, names ten botanical varieties of Prunus tomentosa. From this the species seems to be most variable and under cultivation would probably break up into many forms some of which might prove superior to the type species. Koehne's botanical varieties are given under the species on page 22.