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Article Title:

History of the Cherry Tree

Article Description:

A history of fruiting and flowering cherry trees.

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1210 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line
Distribution Date and Time: 2006-08-24 12:00:00

Written By:     Patrick Malcolm
Copyright:      2006
Contact Email:  mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]

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History of the Cherry Tree
Copyright © 2006 Patrick Malcolm
Ty Ty Nursery

There are only a few instances in the ancient historical record
concerning cherry trees. This absence in the record perhaps
resulted in the fragile nature and perishability of the fruit,
unlike the fruit from the apple tree. There are strong
suggestions that the cherry tree originated in the territories of
Asia Minor near the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Other
suggestions that the cherry trees were used in the Greek and
Roman cultures come from literary historians, and it appears that
cherry wood from the trees of cherry was important in many
professional applications for the ancients.

Among the fruit seeds that were sent in 1628 to the settlement at
Plymouth, Massachusetts, by the Massachusetts bay Colony were
cherry, peach , plum, filbert, apple, quince, and pomegranate and
"according to accounts, they sprung up and flourished."

William Bartram found bird cherry, Prunus padus, growing near
Augusta, Georgia in 1773 as reported in his book, Travels, when
he was taking an inventory of plants growing in the South after
the Spaniards abandoned and ceded the land to the English.

Luther Burbank, two centuries later, believed that the bird
cherry should be incorporated into the parentage of future cherry
hybrids, because it was the most cold hardy cherry known; with
its heavy bearing characteristics and its immunity to most insect
and disease problems of the cherry trees already in commercial
pipelines, it was the hardiest cherry tree yet.

In 1847, Henderson Lewelling brought to Oregon in a covered wagon
"cherry trees, apples, pear, plum, and quince."

Luther Burbank, in his extensive book, Fruit Improvement in 1922,
combined characteristics from the Sand cherry tree, Prunus
besseyi, with the American plum, Prunus chickasaw, and the
Japanese plum, Prunus triflora, that ripened in California around
mid-August. Burbank described the fruit as deep crimson in color,
transparent flesh, rich sweet flavor, juicy and firm with a
strong resemblance of the parental form of the American plum,
Prunus chickasaw. This cherry-plum hybrid was able to withstand
the cold and rigorous climatic conditions, even to the Dakotas.

Professor N.E. Hansen of the South Dakota Experiment Station
developed and improved the Sand cherry, Prunus besseyi, that was
marketed as the "Improved Dwarf Rocky Mountain Cherry," with
fruit growing as large as the Richmond cherry. Luther Burbank
argued in his 1922 book, Fruit Improvement page 149, that this
Sand cherry tree was more truly a plum tree.

Cherries are usually marketed with the stem still attached to the
fruit. When canned or preserved, the stems are customarily
removed from the cherry. Hybridizers such as Luther Burbank
concentrated on improving several characteristics that were
important in marketing the fruit: the size, color, flavor, and
sweetness. Burbank produced one cultivar so rich in sugar and it
hung on the tree, instead of the rapid decay, after ripening on
the tree as experienced with most cherry cultivars.

Cold hardiness was considered to be very important in cherry tree
hybridization and Burbank used the bird cherry, Prunus
pennsylvanica, that had withstood temperatures of negative 60
degrees Fahrenheit near Hudson Bay as one parent of the cherry
hybrid, since it was considered to be the most cold hardy of all
cherry trees. In considering the many disease and insect problems
that cherries experienced, Burbank suggested that hybridizers
concentrate on breeding immunity genes into cherries to bypass
"spraying and gassing." Burbank is greatly admired for his strong
environmental stand by modern day conservationists.

The common wild black cherry, Prunus serotina, is found growing
in most of Eastern North America. The small cherries are grown in
great abundance and are reliably produced in large crops, even in
the coldest regions of the United States. There are efforts to
hybridize the desirable genes of this cherry into existing clones
of commercial cherry cultivars. The problem with this native
cherry tree is that all parts of the tree and fruit contain the
deadly toxin cyanogens, which have caused death and illness to
children from cyanide poisoning in the fruit, even though birds
don't appear to be affected from eating the fruit.

Cherry trees in orchard situations grow 10 to 15 feet tall to
manage the fruit harvesting properly, even though the can grow to
30 feet if not pruned. Cherry trees are very cold hardy down to
negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and require approximately one
thousand or more chill hours for an abundant fruit set.
Pollination is not a great problem with cherry tree production.
Rootstock selection for cherry trees is "Mazzard," Prunus
mahaleb, or "Gisela" or the recent Geissen, German rootstocks.

The principal cherry commercial fruits grown in the United States
are the sour cherries, Prunus cerasus L., that make up 99% of all
production. These cherries are important in baking cherry pies
and cherry tarts, as well as in frozen fruit packs or in

The most famous sour cherry is the "Maraschino" cherry that is
used in cherry pies, cakes, juices, jams, jellies, mixed drinks,
ice cream, and a host of other ways. This cherry is bright red in
color and commonly seen on grocery store shelves in clear glass
jars and bottles.

Sweet cherry cultivars, Prunus avium L., are increasingly in
demand and sold at U.S. markets. Bing cherries are well known as
a fresh fruit item. This cherry is dark purple-red and is firm
and has excellent shipping qualities. Other important sweet
cherries are 'Napoleon' and 'Ranier,' a USDA release that is
bright red with yellow undertones in the background. The Lambert
cherry is good to use in canning as is the Stella. The Black
Tartarian cherry is a sweet cherry commonly available from
mailorder and internet catalogs.

Cherries are rated high in antioxidant levels that offer great
health benefits such as treating Gout. Many internet sites
promote fresh cherry consumption as being the miracle cure and
fast recovery from attacks of Gout. Some internet sites offer
concentrated cherry extracts and powders of dried cherries as a
cure. Cherries offer other health benefits in their high content
of Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, Niacin, and the
minerals Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, and Potassium.

Japanese flowering cherry trees are the most widely adapted and
popular flowering tree growing in the United States today. The
multi-colored flowers of Yoshino cherry, Prunux x yodoensis, and
Kwanzan cherry are seen early in the season, and the buds open
into clusters of abundant, long lasting flowers that dominate the
landscape of our nation's capitol , Washington, D.C. Japanese
flowering cherry trees Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan' were planted
in Washington D.C. as a gift of the Japanese people to American
citizens, largely through the efforts of President Taft's wife,
the first lady. Thousands of these Japanese cherry trees were
planted, and many tourists flock to the Capitol in the spring to
experience that flowering extravaganza. Cherry blossom festivals,
celebrations, and get-togethers are held yearly in cities
throughout the country, when cherry trees are in flower to crown
"Cherry Queens" and to schedule beauty pageants.

The most popular Japanese flowering cherry trees are Prunus
serrulata 'Kwanzan'; Akebono Cherry, Prunus x yedoensis
'Akebono'; Weeping Japenese Cherry, Prunus subhirtella var.
pendula; Takesimensis cherry, Prunus takesimensis; Usuzeumi
Cherry, Prunus spachiana f. ascendens; Autumn Flowering Cherry,
Prunus subhirtella var. autumnalis; Sargent Cherry, Prunus
sargentii; Fugenzo Cherry, Prunus serrulata 'Fugenzo' and Okame
Cherry, Prunus 'Okame'.

Written by: Patrick Malcolm. Learn more about various trees 
by visiting the author's website:


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