Black cherry (Prunus serotina), the largest of the native cherries and the only one of commercial value, is found throughout the Eastern United States. It is also known as wild black cherry, rum cherry, and mountain black cherry. Large, high-quality trees suited for furniture wood or veneer are found in large numbers in a more restricted commercial range on the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia. Smaller quantities of high-quality trees grow in scattered locations along the southern Appalachian Mountains and the upland areas of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Elsewhere, black cherry is often a small, poorly formed tree of relatively low commercial value, but important to wildlife for its fruit.
THE TREE: The tree reaches a height of 100 ft (30 m), with a diameter of 4 to 5 ft (1.2 to 1.5 m). The bark is smooth, bright, reddish-brown, marked by conspicuous narrow, white horizontal lines on young trees; on older trunks, thick, dark brown to nearly black, rough and broken into thick irregular scales. The leaves are oval, shiny above, paler below; edges broken by many fine incurved teeth.
WOOD CHARACTERISTICS: The sapwood is light yellow, while the heartwood is brownish with a greenish tinge, darkening upon exposure to a deep reddish brown with a golden luster. The wood has a mild, aromatic scent, but no characteristic taste. It is of medium density, firm, and strong, with a fine, uniform texture. The grain is generally straight.
Black cherry is an important commercial tree. The rich reddish-brown wood is strong, hard, and close-grained. It works well and finishes smoothly, making it one of the most valued cabinet and furniture woods in North America. Black cherry wood is also used for paneling, interior trim, veneers, handles, crafts, toys, and scientific instruments. Black cherry's commercial range, where large numbers of high-quality trees are found, is restricted to the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Black cherry grows in eastern North America from western Minnesota south to eastern Texas, and eastward to the Atlantic from central Florida to Nova Scotia. Outlying populations grow in central Texas; in the mountains of western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona; and south in Mexico to Guatemala.