Prunus padus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Not to be confused with Prunus avium, meaning "wild cherry".

Prunus padus
Vogelkers bloesem.jpg
Bird cherry flowers
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Padus[2]
Species: P. padus
Binomial name
Prunus padus
Prunus padus range.svg
Distribution map

Prunus padus, known as bird cherry, hackberry, hagberry, or Mayday tree, is a flowering plant in the rose family Rosaceae. It is a species of cherry, a deciduous small tree or large shrub up to 16 m tall. It is the type species of the subgenus Padus, which have flowers in racemes. It is native to northern Europe and northern Asia, the British Isles, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Ukraine. There are also some trees in France, Spain, Portugal, North Italy and in the Balkans. The Mayday tree is abundant in Anchorage, Alaska, having been planted in great numbers by landscapers and homeowners.


The English name "hackberry"[4] refers to the fruit, which is astringent due to their tannin content.[5]

There are two varieties:

  • European bird cherry Prunus padus var. padus, Europe and western Asia.
  • Asian bird cherry Prunus padus var. commutata, eastern Asia.


Bird cherries (drupes)
A Bird Cherry tree in full bloom
A blooming hackberry tree in Donetsk, Ukraine

The flowers are hermaphroditic and pollinated by bees and flies. The fruit is readily eaten by birds, which do not taste astringency as unpleasant.

Bird-cherry ermine moth (Yponomeuta evonymella) uses bird-cherry as its host plant, and the larvae can eat single trees leafless.


The glycosides prulaurasin and amygdalin, which can be poisonous to some mammals, are present in some parts of P. padus, including the leaves, stems and fruits.[6]


The fruit of this tree is seldom used in western Europe, but is commonly eaten farther east.

The black fruits of the tree can be ground down to make flour for culinary purposes [7]

It was used medicinally during the Middle Ages.[clarification needed]

The bark of the tree, placed at the door, was supposed to ward off plague.[clarification needed]

The variety commutata is sold as an ornamental tree in North America under the common name Mayday. It is valued for its hardiness and spring display of fragrant, white flowers.[8] The common name Mayday tree is not related to the distress signal mayday as the name for the tree was in use prior to the adoption of mayday as an international distress signal.[9]

A taboo on the use of the wood was reported by natives of Advie, in northeast Scotland, being regarded as a "witches tree".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Rehder, A. 1940, reprinted 1977. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs hardy in North America exclusive of the subtropical and warmer temperate regions. Macmillan publishing Co., Inc, New York.
  3. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Walter Gregor, "Some Folklore of Trees, Animals, and River-fishing from the N.E. of Scotland" The Folk-Lore Journal. Volume 7, 1889. p. 41.
  5. ^ "Bird cherry (Prunus padus)". Science & Plants for Schools (U.K.). 
  6. ^ N.D.Sargison; D.S.Williamson; J.R.Duncan; R.W.McCance (1996). "Prunus Padus (bird cherry) poisoning in cattle". Veterinary Record. 138: 188. doi:10.1136/vr.138.8.188. …stems, leaves and fruits of P. padus contain the glycosides prulaurasin and amygdalin… 
  7. ^ "Herodotus, IV.23". Loeb Classical Library at LacusCurtius. 
  8. ^$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex1000?opendocument
  9. ^ The London Journal: and Weekly Record of Literature, Science, and Art, Volume 32, page 475

External links[edit]