Wild Black Cherry Tree (Prunus serotina) Quick Facts:
Host plant to the Tiger Swallowtail and the Red Spotted Purple butterflies
Native to eastern US
Hardy in USDA zones 3 – 9
Partial or full sun
Medium moist soil
Slow growing tree may reach 120 feet
Cross pollination is needed to produce fruit
Plant Wild Cherry Trees for Tiger Swallowtails, Red Spotted Purples, and More than 400 other Species
Actually, it’s more than 450 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) that are supported by the leaves, flowers, fruit, and branches of the Wild Black Cherry Tree. According to researchers at the University of Delaware led by noted conservationist, entomologist, and author Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy (references below), the Prunus is the second most valuable plant genus for sustaining wildlife in its native regions. Its ecological value is surpassed only by trees in the oak family.
To drop just a few well-known names…Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, White Admirals, Viceroys, Coral Hairstreaks, Red Spotted Purples, Summer and Spring Azures, and Painted Ladies all use the tree for a host plant. Henry’s and Eastern Pine Elfins, Red-Banded and Dusty Blue Hairstreaks and various Swallowtails are among those who sip nectar from the lacy white racemes that emerge in early spring.
Cheers for the Cherries
The Wild Black Cherry is a long-lived tree–it typically thrives for one hundred years or more–and in its tenth year or so, it begins to produce gorgeous clumps of glossy fruit (each cherry about the size of a small marble). The cherries are a deep, dark red when they appear in June, and turn to a garnet-tinged black from August through October, when the leaves of the tree make their autumn change to golden yellow. They are popular with a wide variety of birds–turkey, grouse, and pheasant are among the cherries’ feathered fans. Chipmunks, squirrels, foxes, and bears (!) relish the fruit, and humans have discovered that the cherries make delectable jams and liqueurs.
Easy as Pie
If you have ample space with moist, acidic, well-drained soil that receives at least a few hours of direct sun each day, you have the perfect conditions for the Wild Black Cherry Tree to achieve its average mature height of 80 feet and to spread gracefully arching branches in the classic, oval shape.
But if you don’t have these ideal conditions, fear not! The tree tolerates dry, alkaline soil, moderate drought, and even road salt. In crowded conditions, the Black Cherry will grow slim and tall. You should also know that in truly limited space, the tree can be grown in large containers–a half-wine barrel of about 150 liters in size is ideal.
You can expect 2-3 feet of growth each season and enthusiastic self-seeding once fruiting begins. The wild native variety we’re offering here at Joyful Butterfly is much less prone to diseases and storm damage than other cherry cultivars.
Plant a Wild Black Cherry Tree to Support Your Local Wildlife!
If the birds, butterflies, moths, and other wildlife in your area could talk, they’d probably be begging you to plant a Wild Black Cherry Tree or two in your yard! Graceful clusters of blossoms and fruit, subtly shining dark green leaves, and a pleasing, elegant silhouette make it one of the loveliest ways you can help conserve your native ecology!
Note: The following states have restrictions on the cherry tree or on the genus Prunus: CA, ID, OR, and WA. We cannot ship to these states. We are sorry for the inconvenience.