Category Archives: Prunus padus

Cherry, Bird

[[Category:Deciduous Trees]]


”’Scientific Name”’: ”Prunus padus”

”’Family”’: ”Rosaceae”

”’Also known as”’: Hackberry, hagberry, or Mayday tree. Also, Wild lilac in some parts of Yorkshire due to its spikes/racemes of white flowers in spring.

”’Habitat”’: Bird cherry is native to northern Europe and northern Asia. It is commonly found in wet woodland, hedgerows and stream and river banks.

”’Description”’: It is a deciduous small tree or large shrub, 8–16 m tall. Mature trees have been recorded to 25m.

”’Identifying Features”’:
* ”’Bark”’ – The bark is smooth, peeling and rough, greyish-brown and emits an unpleasant, acrid odour.
* ”’Twigs”’ – Twigs are a dull deep brown, with pale markings. Shoots are hairy when young but become hairless with age.
* ”’Buds”’ – The buds are brown, oblong and pointed. Lateral buds are in clusters along the twig.
* ”’Leaves”’ – Alternately arranged, oval and hairless except for the tufts under the vein joints (axils). Unlike wild cherry, the edges have fine, sharp serrations, with pointed tips and two glands on the stalk at the leaf base. The leaf stems (petioles) have two red glands at the top.
* ”’Flowers”’ – Cherry trees are hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are contained within the same flower. Flowers appear in April, they are strongly scented, white and with five petals, and measure 8-15mm across.
* ”’Fruits”’ – Once pollinated by insects, the flowers develop into reddish-black, bitter cherries (drupes). Unlike wild cherry, bird cherry does not produce root suckers. The fruit is readily eaten by birds, which do not taste astringency as unpleasant.

==Pictures throughout the year==

File:BirdCherryFruitC.jpg|Bird cherries
File:Bird_Cherry_Bark.jpg|Bird Cherry bark
File:Bird_Cherry_Leaves.jpg|Bird Cherry leaves
File:Bird_Cherry_flowers.jpg|Bird Cherry flowers

Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit usually has a bitter taste and is used mainly for making jam and preserves. Flowers – chewed. Young leaves – cooked. Used as a boiled vegetable in Korea.
The bark is mildly anodyne, diuretic, febrifuge and sedative. An infusion is used in the treatment of colds, feverish conditions etc. The bark is harvested when the tree is in flower and can be dried for later use. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
Like wild cherry, the spring flowers provide an early source of nectar and pollen for bees, while the cherries are eaten by birds including the blackbird and song thrush, as well as mammals such as the badger, wood mouse, yellow necked mouse and dormouse.

The foliage is eaten by caterpillars of many species of moth, including the orchard ermine, brimstone and short cloaked moth, however it is toxic to livestock, particularly goats.

”’Mythology and symbolism”’
If placed at the door, the strong-smelling bark of the tree was said to ward off the plague.

”’How we use bird cherry”’
The black fruits can be used for making liqueur or dyeing wool.

Bird cherry wood is lighter and more finely textured than wild cherry.

==Gav Notes==
===Known hazards===
The seed and leaves contain hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is readily detected by its bitter taste. Usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

”’Poison”’ – The glycosides, prulaurasin and amygdalin, which can be poisonous to some mammals, are present in some parts of P. padus, including the leaves, stems and fruits.
The fruits ripen from July to August and can be picked straight from the tree. It usually involves some climbing!
===Potential lookalikes===
[[Cherry,_Wild|Wild cherry (Prunus avium)]], Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) and Plum cherry (Prunus cerasifera).

Identified in winter by clusters of lateral buds along the twig.
*Tree & Plant ID Course from Foundation Bushcraft –
*Wikipedia –
*Woodland Trust –

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