Black Cherry

Prunus serotina



Straight tree with a single trunk, few lower branches, and an open, rounded crown. The variety serotina can grow to 100’ but the other three Texas varieties tend to be much shorter. It has shiny green leaves gradually tapering to a sharp point with tiny teeth along the margins. The leaves turn bright yellow to red in the fall. When young its thin bark has circular bands of silver and gray. During March to April it flowers with white racemes becoming late Summer green drupes changing to dark blue or red and then maturing to black. These black dupes give it the common name, Black Cherry.


This is a shade intolerant tree that likes mesic conditions. The variety exima (known as Escarpment Black Cherry) of Central Texas favors the North slopes of hillsides, canyons, and creek bottoms. In the Texas Hill Country this exima variety appears to be in decline probably both to dry conditions and white-tailed deer which love to eat the young, non-toxic early leaves and shoots.

Toxic Agent

The leaves, twigs, bark, and seed produce cyanogenic glycoside.

Signs of Livestock Ingestion

“Early signs of acute cyanide poisoning include rapid and labored breathing, frothing at the mouth, ataxia, dilated pupils, muscle tremors, and convulsions.”  From “Prussic Acid and Livestock Poisoning” New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service Guide B-808.