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Wild Cherry (Prunus Cerasus) Identification Guide

Cherry / Spring / Autumn / Edible

Cherry trees are found in almost every town, village and city within the UK & they have edible parts in spring and autumn.


Botanical Name

Prunus Cerasus


Family

Rosaceae


Known Hazards

Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but 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.


Could be confused with

Other cherry trees as they are able to hybridise very easily, used similarly.


Range and Distribution

Mainland and northern Europe, England, Western Asia and Northern America.


Habitat

Garden edges, hedges, open fields and planted woodland.


Physical Characteristics

 

Wild Cherry is a deciduous tree growing up to 6ms tall, with a rough light to mid brown bark that can appear to give a dull grey glow.


Leaves

The leaves are elliptic with acute or pointed tips; the edges are slightly serrated containing long petioles (the stem between leaf and branch).


Flowers

The Flowers display the most amazing bloom throughout may, seeming to cover the whole tree whilst the leaves are still in infancy. Individual flowers, 3-4cms wide, produce 5 distinct white/pink petals.


Fruits

Multiple rounded fruits stem from the same point on each branch and look like stereotypical cherries, hanging down 2-3cms on their individual stalks.


Edible Use:

Flowers/Blossom: Teas, syrups, cakes, decoration, imparts almond flavour
Fruit/seeds: fruit compote, syrup, alcohol infusions, pies, cakes, cookies, muffins.


Herbal

Sour cherries have fairly high amounts of melatonin, a chemical vital in regulating human sleep cycles, it has therefore been used in the past to aid sleep patterns of individuals.


Miscellaneous

This tree bares fruit with a single large pip, meaning you can tap the tree, or remove some of the bark until sap starts to leak from the trunk. This sap can be used as a replacement to gum Arabic in making water colour paints. It must be noted that the sap of the cherry tree will shrink a lot more than gum Arabic and this must be taken in to account when adding constituent ingredients to your paint mix (less pigment and honey).

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