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Prunus avium, sweet cherry, also called wild cherry

The Cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). The cherry fruits of commerce are usually obtained from a limited number of species such as cultivars of the sweet cherry, Prunus avium. The name 'cherry' also refers to the cherry tree, and is sometimes applied to almonds and visually similar flowering trees in the genus Prunus, as in "ornamental cherry", "cherry blossom", etc. Wild Cherry may refer to any of the cherry species growing outside of cultivation, although Prunus avium is often referred to specifically by the name "wild cherry" in the British Isles.


Prunus padus, bird cherry

Many cherries are members of the subgenus Cerasus, which is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having smooth fruit with only a weak groove or none along one side. The subgenus is native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with two species in America, three in Europe, and the remainder in Asia. Other cherry fruits are members of subgenus Padus. Cherry trees with low exposure to light tend to have a bigger leaf size so they can intercept all light possible. Cherry trees with high exposure to light tend to have thicker leaves to concentrate light and have a higher photosynthetic capacity.[1]

Most eating cherries are derived from either Prunus avium, the sweet cherry (also called the wild cherry), or from Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry.


Etymology and antiquity[edit]

The native range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, modern day Turkey, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.[2]

A form of cherry was introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent by order of Henry VIII, who had tasted them in Flanders.[3][4][5]

The English word cherry, French cerise and Spanish cereza all come from the classical Greek (κέρασος) through the Latin cerasum, thus the ancient Roman place name Cerasus, today a city in northern Turkey Giresun from which the cherry was first exported to Europe.[6]

Wildlife value[edit]

Cherry trees also provide food for the caterpillars of several Lepidoptera.


The cultivated forms are of the species sweet cherry (P. avium) to which most cherry cultivars belong, and the sour cherry (P. cerasus), which is used mainly for cooking. Both species originate in Europe and western Asia; they do not cross-pollinate. Some other species, although having edible fruit, are not grown extensively for consumption, except in northern regions where the two main species will not grow. Irrigation, spraying, labor, and their propensity to damage from rain and hail make cherries relatively expensive. Nonetheless, demand is high for the fruit. In commercial production, cherries are harvested by using a mechanized 'shaker'.[7] Hand picking is also widely used to harvest the fruit to avoid damage to both fruit and trees.

Growing season[edit]

Cherries have a very short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. The peak season for cherries is in the summer. In Australia and New Zealand they are usually at their peak in late December, in southern Europe in June, in North America in June, in south British Columbia (Canada) in July to mid-August and in the UK in mid-July. In many parts of North America, they are among the first tree fruits to ripen, while in Australia and New Zealand cherries are widely associated with Christmas.[8]

'Kordia' is an early variety which ripens during the beginning of December, 'Lapins peak' ripens near the end of December, and 'Sweethearts' finish slightly later in the Southern Hemisphere.

Like most temperate-latitude trees, cherry seeds require exposure to cold to germinate (a mechanism the tree evolved to prevent germination during the autumn, which would then result in the seedling being killed by winter temperatures). The pits are planted in the autumn (after first being chilled) and seedlings emerge in the spring. A cherry tree will take three to four years to produce its first crop of fruit, and seven years to attain full maturity. Because of the cold-weather requirement, none of the Prunus family can grow in tropical climates.


The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:

Name Size Ref.
Accolade 64m² [9]
Amanogawa 32m² [10]
Autumnalis (P. × subhirtella) 64m² [11]
Autumnalis Rosea (P. × subhirtella) 32m² [12]
Avium Grandiflora see Plena
Colorata (P. padus) 96m² [13]
Grandiflora see Plena
Kanzan 100m²+ [14]
Kiku-shidare-zakura 16m²+ [15]
Kursar 64m² [16]
Morello (P. cerasus) 16m² [17]
Okamé (P. × incam) 96m² [18]
Pandora 96m² [19]
Pendula Rosea 16m² [20]
Name Size Ref.
Pendula Rubra 16m² [21]
Pink Perfection 64m² [22]
Plena (Grandiflora) 100m²+ [23]
Praecox (P. incisa) 64m² [24]
Prunus avium (sweet cherry) 120m²+ [9]
Prunus × cistena 2.5m² [25]
Prunus sargentii 100m²+ [26]
Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry) 100m²+ [27]
Shirofugen 64m² [28]
Shirotai 64m² [29]
Shōgetsu 64m² [30]
Spire 96m² [31]
Stella 16m² [24]
Ukon 64m²+ [32]

Ornamental trees[edit]

See cherry blossom and Prunus.

Commercial production[edit]

Worldwide cherry yield

Annual world production (as of 2007) of cultivated cherry fruit is about two million tonnes. Around 40% of world production originates in Europe and around 13% in the United States.

Top Cherry Producing Nations - 2011
(in metric tons)
Rank Country Production
1  Turkey 438,550
2  United States 303,376
3  Iran 241,117
4  Italy 112,775
5  Spain 101,945
6  Austria 92,520
7  Uzbekistan 82,000
8  Romania 81,842
9  Russia 76,000
10  Ukraine 72,800
11  Syria 62,195
12  Chile 61,088
13  France 48,054
14  Greece 44,200
15  Poland 37,984
16  Germany 37,035
17  China 32,000
18  Bulgaria 30,063
19  Serbia 28,551
World 2,196,000
Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organization [33]



Major commercial cherry orchards in West Asia and Europe are in Turkey (mainly Anatolia), Lebanon (Bekaa Valley), Syria, Israel (Golan Heights and Northen Galilee), Italy and Spain, and to a smaller extent in the Baltic States and southern Scandinavia.

North America[edit]

In the United States, most sweet cherries are grown in Washington, California, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Michigan.[34] Important sweet cherry cultivars include 'Bing', 'Brooks', 'Tulare', 'King', 'Sweetheart',[35] and 'Rainier'. In addition, the 'Lambert' variety is grown on the eastern side of Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana.[36] Both Oregon and Michigan provide light-colored 'Royal Ann' ('Napoleon'; alternately 'Queen Anne') cherries for the maraschino cherry process. Most sour (also called tart) cherries are grown in Michigan, followed by Utah, New York, and Washington.[34] Additionally, native and non-native cherries grow well in Canada (Ontario and British Columbia). Sour cherries include 'Nanking' and 'Evans'. Traverse City, Michigan claims to be the "Cherry Capital of the World", hosting a National Cherry Festival and making the world's largest cherry pie. The specific region of northern Michigan known for tart cherry production is referred to as the "Traverse Bay" region.


In Australia, cherries are grown in all the states except for the Northern Territory. The major producing regions are located in the temperate areas within New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Western Australia has limited production in the elevated parts in southwest of the state. Key production areas include Young, Orange and Bathurst in New South Wales, Wandin, the Goulburn and Murray valley areas in Victoria, the Adelaide Hills region in South Australia, and the Huon and Derwent Valleys in Tasmania.

Key commercial varieties in order of seasonality include 'Empress', 'Merchant', 'Supreme', 'Ron's seedling', 'Chelan', 'Ulster', 'Van', 'Bing', 'Stella', 'Nordwunder', 'Lapins', 'Simone', 'Regina', 'Kordia' and 'Sweetheart'. New varieties are being introduced, including the late season 'Staccato' and early season 'Sequoia'. The Australian Cherry Breeding program is developing a series of new varieties which are under testing evaluation.[37]

The New South Wales town of Young is called the "Cherry Capital of Australia" and hosts the National Cherry Festival.

Nutritional value[edit]

Cherries, sour, red, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 209 kJ (50 kcal)
Carbohydrates 12.2 g
- Sugars 8.5 g
- Dietary fiber 1.6 g
Fat 0.3 g
Protein 1 g
Vitamin A equiv. 64 μg (8%)
- beta-carotene 770 μg (7%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 85 μg
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.03 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.04 mg (3%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.4 mg (3%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.143 mg (3%)
Vitamin B6 0.044 mg (3%)
Folate (vit. B9) 8 μg (2%)
Choline 6.1 mg (1%)
Vitamin C 10 mg (12%)
Vitamin K 2.1 μg (2%)
Calcium 16 mg (2%)
Iron 0.32 mg (2%)
Magnesium 9 mg (3%)
Manganese 0.112 mg (5%)
Phosphorus 15 mg (2%)
Potassium 173 mg (4%)
Sodium 3 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.1 mg (1%)
Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Cherries, sweet, red, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 263 kJ (63 kcal)
Carbohydrates 16 g
- Sugars 12.8 g
- Dietary fiber 2.1 g
Fat 0.2 g
Protein 1.1 g
Vitamin A equiv. 3 μg (0%)
- beta-carotene 38 μg (0%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 85 μg
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.027 mg (2%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.033 mg (3%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.154 mg (1%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.199 mg (4%)
Vitamin B6 0.049 mg (4%)
Folate (vit. B9) 4 μg (1%)
Choline 6.1 mg (1%)
Vitamin C 7 mg (8%)
Vitamin K 2.1 μg (2%)
Calcium 13 mg (1%)
Iron 0.36 mg (3%)
Magnesium 11 mg (3%)
Manganese 0.07 mg (3%)
Phosphorus 21 mg (3%)
Potassium 222 mg (5%)
Sodium 0 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.07 mg (1%)
Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

As raw fruit, sweet cherries provide little nutrient content per 100 g serving (nutrient table). Dietary fiber and vitamin C are present in the most significant content while other vitamins and dietary minerals each supply less than 10% of the Daily Value (DV) per serving, respectively.[38]

Compared to sweet cherries, raw sour cherries contain higher content per 100 g of vitamin C (12% DV) and vitamin A (8% DV).[39]

Phytochemical research[edit]

Cherry anthocyanins, a class of phytochemical red pigments, were shown in preliminary research to possibly affect pain and inflammation mechanisms in rats.[40] Anthocyanins may have other effects which remain under basic research for their potential mechanisms. For example, according to one study, genetically obese rats given a diet of tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet did not gain weight or body fat like those on a similar diet without the powder, and their blood levels of inflammation indicators were lower.[41]

Other information[edit]

Dried cherry fruit infused with raspberry concentrate are sold commercially under the name razzcherries.

The wood of some cherry species is especially esteemed for the manufacture of fine furniture.[42]

Cherries are used as additions to commercial ice creams, such as Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, Haagen Dazs' Cherry Vanilla and Baskin-Robbin's Winter White Chocolate.

A cherry stone from a 1250-year-old cherry tree of the Ganoji temple of Japan was sent aboard the International Space Station and then planted on Earth. None of the tree's cherry stones had ever bloomed on Earth, but the seed taken to space bloomed after only 4 years, 5 years faster than was expected for cherry trees. There were also fewer petals than normal, only 5; cherry trees can have up to 30 petals. With no control group for a reference, scientists could only speculate that the bizarre growth was due to the effect of cosmic rays. [43]


The list below contains many Prunus species that bear the common name cherry, but they are not necessarily members of the subgenus Cerasus, or bear edible fruit. For a complete list of species, see Prunus. Some common names listed here have historically been used for more than one species, e.g. "rock cherry" is used as an alternative common name for both P. prostrata and P. mahaleb and "wild cherry" is used for several species.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goncalves, Berta; Carlos M. Correia, Ana Paula Silva, Eunice A. Bacelar,Alberto Santos, José M. Moutinho-Pereira (20 May 2008). "Leaf structure and function of sweet cherry tree (Prunus avium L.) cultivars with open and dense canopies". Scientia Horticulturae. Scientia Horticulturae 116 (4): 381–387. doi:10.1016/j.scienta.2008.02.013. 
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Pontus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  3. ^ The curious antiquary John Aubrey (1626–1697) noted in his memoranda: "Cherries were first brought into Kent tempore H. viii, who being in Flanders, and likeing the Cherries, ordered his Gardener, brought them hence, and propagated them in England." Oliver Lawson Dick, ed. (1949). Aubrey's Brief Lives. Edited from the Original Manuscripts. p. xxxv. 
  4. ^ "All the cherry gardens and orchards of Kent are said to have been stocked with the Flemish cherry from a plantation of 105 acres in Teynham, made with foreign cherries, pippins [ pippin apples ], and golden rennets [goldreinette apples], done by the fruiterer of Henry VIII." (Kent On-line: Teynham Parish)
  5. ^ The civic coat of arms of Sittingbourne with the crest of a "cherry tree fructed proper" were only granted in 1949, however.
  6. ^ A History of the Vegetable Kingdom, Page 334.
  7. ^ Chainpure (2009-06-23). "Soul to Brain: Wow! Its Cherry Harvesting". Retrieved 2011-11-26. 
  8. ^ Footner, Regan (27 November 2008). "Cherries - a sign of Christmas". ABC Blogs. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Accolade' (d) AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  10. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Amanogawa' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  11. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus × subhirtella 'Autumnalis' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  12. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus × subhirtella 'Autumnalis Rosea' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  13. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus padus 'Colorata' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  14. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Kanzan' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  15. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  16. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Kursar' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  17. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus cerasus 'Morello' (C) AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  18. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus × incam 'Okamé' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  19. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Pandora' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  20. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus pendula 'Pendula Rosea' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  21. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus pendula 'Pendula Rubra' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  22. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Pink Perfection' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  23. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus avium 'Plena' (d) AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  24. ^ a b "RHS Plant Selector Prunus avium 'Stella' (F) AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  25. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus × cistena AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  26. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus sargentii AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  27. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus serrula AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  28. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Shirofugen' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  29. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Prunus 'Shirotae' AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  30. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Prunus 'Shogetsu'". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  31. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Prunus 'Spire'". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  32. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Prunus 'Ukon'". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  33. ^ "Production of Cherry by countries". UN Food & Agriculture Organization. 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  34. ^ a b Cherry Production (Report). National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. June 23, 2011. ISSN 1948-9072. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
  35. ^
  36. ^ [1] Sweet Cherries Of Flathead Lake, Retrieved on August 28, 2009
  37. ^ "ANNUAL INDUSTRY REPORT 08 • 09". Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL). 
  38. ^ "Nutrition facts, cherries, sweet, raw, 100 g". US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, Standard Reference 21. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  39. ^ "Nutrition facts, cherries, sour, red, raw, 100 g". US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, Standard Reference 21. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  40. ^ Tall JM, Seeram NP, Zhao C, Nair MG, Meyer RA, Raja SN, JM (Aug 2004). "Tart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in rat". Behav. Brain Res. 153 (1): 181–8. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2003.11.011. ISSN 0166-4328. PMID 15219719. 
  41. ^ "Tart Cherries May Reduce Heart/Diabetes Risk Factors". Newswise, Retrieved on July 7, 2008.
  42. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica. 1994-2009. 
  43. ^ Subodh Varma (Apr 11, 2014). "Cherry trees grown from space returned seeds sprout amazing early flowers in Japan". The Times of India. 

External links[edit]