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Uses

Toxic parts

The seeds and leaves of this species contain high quantities of 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[1][2]. 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.

Edible uses

Notes

Fruit - raw or cooked in pies, jellies, stews etc[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]. It must be fully ripe or else it will have a bitter flavour. The fruit can taste sweet or bitter[11]. The better fruits have a thin skin and a juicy flesh with a pleasant vinous flavour[12]. The fruit can also be used as a flavouring[9]. The taste is best when the plant is grown in a sunny position[13]. The fruit is about 9mm in diameter and contains one large seed[14].

Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.

An infusion of the twigs is used as a beverage[15][16]. An extract from the bark is used commercially as a flavouring in soft drinks, sweets, syrups and baked goods[10].

Unknown part

Fruit

Material uses

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[17].

A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[17].

Wood - close and straight-grained, light, strong, rather hard, highly shock resistant[18][12][9][19][20]. It bends well, works well, finishes smoothly, glues well, seasons well, shrinks moderately and is moderately free from checking and warping[21]. It weighs about 36lb per cubic foot and takes a beautiful polish[21]. It is widely used for furniture, cabinet making, the interior finish of buildings etc[18][12][9][19][20].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Rum cherry was widely employed medicinally by various native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[16]. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism.

The bark of the root, trunk and branches is antitussive, astringent, pectoral, sedative, stomachic, tonic[22][1][23][24][25]. The medicinal properties of this plant are destroyed by boiling, so the plant should only be allowed to steep in warm water[26]. The root bark and the aromatic inner bark have expectorant and mild sedative properties and a tea made from either of them has been used to ease pain in the early stages of labour[26][27]. The tea is also used in the treatment of fevers, colds, sore throats, diarrhoea etc[27][16]. The bark is harvested in the autumn and should not be stored for longer than one year since it quickly loses its medicinal properties[22][26]. Young thin bark is preferred[26]. A decoction of the inner bark has been used in the treatment of laryngitis[16]. The root bark has been used as a wash on old sores and ulcers[16]. The bark contains the glycoside prunasin, which is converted in the digestive tract to the highly toxic hydrocyanic acid[27]. Prunasin is at its highest level in the bark in the autumn[27] so the bark is harvested at this time and can be dried for later use[28]. In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[25].

The fruit is astringent and has been used in the treatment of dysentery[26].

Ecology

Ecosystem niche/layer

Canopy

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.

Forage

Nothing listed.

Shelter

Nothing listed.

Propagation

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[14]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[14]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[29]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.

Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame[4][14]. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame[14].

Layering in spring.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Prunus serotina. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.



Cultivation

Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil[30][4]. Requires a warm sunny position[4][13]. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone[4]. Prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present[30].

A fast-growing and moderately long-lived tree in the wild, producing a heavy fruit crop about once every 4 years[20]. It is cultivated for its timber in C. Europe[31]. This species produces an abundance of flowers and usually fruits well in Britain[4]. In the wild the tree begins to fruit when about 10 years old and then continues for about 100 years, fruiting well in most years[9]. Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[25].

Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[14].

Crops

Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Prunus serotina. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Prunus serotina.

Descendants

Cultivars

Varieties

None listed.

Subspecies

None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Taxonomy
Binomial name
Prunus serotina
Genus
Prunus
Family
Rosaceae
Imported References
Material uses & Functions
Botanic
Propagation
Cultivation
Environment
Cultivation
Uses
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Functions
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Environment
Hardiness Zone
3
Heat Zone
?
Water
moderate
Sun
full sun
Shade
no shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Ecosystems
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Life
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    18 x 8 meters
    Fertility
    ?
    Pollinators
    Flower Colour
    ?
    Flower Type

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    References

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    2. ? Frohne. D. and Pf?nder. J. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. Wolfe ISBN 0723408394 (1984-00-00)
    3. ? 3.03.1 Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-20459-6 (1972-00-00)
    4. ? 4.04.14.24.34.44.54.64.7 Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
    5. ? 5.05.1 Harrison. S. Wallis. M. Masefield. G. The Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford University Press (1975-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.1 Harris. B. C. Eat the Weeds. Pivot Health (1973-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants. Van Nostrand Reinhold ISBN 0442222009 (1982-00-00)
    8. ? 8.08.1 Turner. N. J. and Szczawinski. A. Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences (1978-00-00)
    9. ? 9.09.19.29.39.49.59.6 Vines. R. A. Trees of Central Texas. University of Texas Press ISBN 0-292-78958-3 (1987-00-00)
    10. ? 10.010.110.2 Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.111.2 Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.112.212.312.4 Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America. Dover Publications Inc. New York. ISBN 0-486-20278-X (1965-00-00)
    13. ? 13.013.113.2 McPherson. A. and S. Wild Food Plants of Indiana. Indiana University Press ISBN 0-253-28925-4 (1977-00-00)
    14. ? 14.014.114.214.314.414.514.614.7 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    15. ? 15.015.1 Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Depf of Agriculture. ()
    16. ? 16.016.116.216.316.416.516.6 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
    17. ? 17.017.117.2 Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
    18. ? 18.018.118.2 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    19. ? 19.019.119.2 Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press (1952-00-00)
    20. ? 20.020.120.220.3 Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. ISBN 0442238622 (1980-00-00)
    21. ? 21.021.121.2 Vines. R.A. Trees of North Texas University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292780206 (1982-00-00)
    22. ? 22.022.122.2 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    23. ? 23.023.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
    24. ? 24.024.1 Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
    25. ? 25.025.125.225.3 Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    26. ? 26.026.126.226.326.426.5 Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    27. ? 27.027.127.227.327.4 Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    28. ? 28.028.1 Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    29. ? Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
    30. ? 30.030.1 F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    31. ? ? Flora Europaea Cambridge University Press (1964-00-00)

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