How to Identify Cherry Trees

Cherry trees can be found throughout the United States, but they thrive in zones 4 through 8. These trees come in two basic types: sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) and sweet cherries (Prunus avium). The famed cherry pie consists of sour cherries. Pruning, fertilizer and watering make up the majority of the tree's maintenance routine. Learning how to identify cherry trees is important for choosing one to plant in your yard.

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Look at a cherry tree's stem. It should be a grayish brown color and stiff. Cherry tree seedlings are unlike other seedlings. Their stems are never green and flexible. The bark of a cherry tree will be reddish brown with horizontal stripes; however, when sweet cherry trees get older their bark starts to take on a gray color.

Check out the leaves. They should be slightly oval, downy, flat, thin and between 1 to 3 inches in length. The ends should be slightly pointed. The veins of the leaves will be slightly raised and curved. The edges of the leaves will be finely toothed. One of the exceptions is the black cherry tree, which has smooth edges.

Notice its height. Most cherry trees like the Myrobalan cherry plum and wild black cherry grow up to 25 feet. Bird cherry and black cherry trees are exceptions, because it can grow up to 40 to 50 feet. Sour cherry trees, flowering cherry trees and common chokeberry trees will be somewhat smaller than sweet cherry trees.

Look at the fruit. Cherries are not packed together and are less then 1-inch in diameter. They do not have modified leaves and are grown without a husk. Sour cherries will ripen about three weeks after sweet cherries. The majority of the cherry trees in the state of Michigan are sour cherries. Taste the cherry to tell if it is sweet or tart.

Determine the type of cherry. Bing cherries are large in size and are bright red. They are intensely sweet in taste. Oxhearts are heart-shaped cherries that have a sweet flavor. Sour cherries are small bright with thin skins. Rainers are golden with a pink or red flush over the surface of the fruit and their distinctive delicate flavor makes them one of the most popular of the cherries. When choosing cherries to eat, be sure that they are firm and have bright shiny skin.

See if the tree is a flowering cherry tree. It will have small shriveled fruit, grow in a temperate region and produce small flowers. Cherry blossom can be white, pink or red. Most bloom in the spring, yet there are several types that can bloom in the fall and winter months

Notice your geography. Cherries trees predominantly grow in places that do not have severe cold spells of winters. In addition, they do not grow in hot climates like southern Florida, Arizona, California and in the deserts of Nevada. They prefer to grow in well-drained soil that doesn't have an excess of water like a wetland.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take a picture of the tree to take with you to a nursery for identification.
  • Avoid planting a cherry tree in harsh climates or in the fall.


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