Bird Cherry (Prunus avium)
Family: Rose family (Rosaceae)
Type: Cherry (Prunus)
The tree of the year in Germany is annually chosen by the Kuratorium "Baum des Jahres" (site available in German only).
Who does not know it from our gardens, as well as from the edges of the woods? The bird cherry (prunus avium) is the archetype of all cultural cherries and flowering cherries and is frequently planted because of its fruits and its common beauty. In Japan there is a separate cherry blossom celebration. The cherry tree is undoubtedly particularly beautiful when it is in bloom, but also with its mature fruits just before the Midsummer's Day in June as well as in the autumn colouring.
The bird cherry is a famous forest tree, grows mainly on chalky soils - but also sustains heavy clayey soils - and reaches a height of 20 meters, seldom more. It tolerates difficult locations especially, when it gets enough light. Anyway the cultural varieties (especially Sour and Morello Cherries) need distinctly less direct insolation than the pomaceous fruit trees (apples and especially pears).
For the bird cherry, yet the name implies that they are liked to be eaten by birds and spread in that way. Besides its outstanding blossom it is an offer for birds in open landscapes. Above that, it is used as a base for the grafts of ennobled cherries and flowering cherries as well.
The cherry tree gets as a general rule rarely older than 100 years. Certainly it is nevertheless not advisable to plant this tree in a too small garden because the crown becomes very big and occupies very much space. For smaller gardens the subspecies Prunus avium plena with its snowy white, stuffed blossoms is suited much better. (plenus, -a, -um means 'full, stuffed' - which Latin scholar doesn't know the saying 'Plenus venter non studet libenter' - 'a full belly does not like studying')
Usage of the wood
The cherry tree is a comparatively shallow-rooted tree and has a sweeping root system. The bird cherry grows fairly quickly and has a solid, finely grained wood that is suitable well in the furniture joinery, for woodturning and for the manufacture of instruments. The wood has a wonderful warm (reddish) hue with a consistent, unobtrusive structure. It is relatively hard with a dense surface that however turns grey soon without any protecting cover.
Out of cherries one can distil the famous "Kirschwasser" ("Cherry Water") - indispensable for real Black Forest cake as well as for rounding off of good cheese fondue. Recently also pits for cherry pit pillows as 'heating pads' are held in great esteem again. For any food purpose, the cultural species are preferred for having more pulp around the stone.
The frequently cultivated and likewise classing among the family of the rosaceae cherry is the Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus). It differs from the sweet cherry in sometimes glandless, harder leaves and small leaves at the base of the blossom. A typical token of all cherries are apart from that the honey glands at the base of the leaf blade. Moreover, the cherries do always have, in contrast to the plummies (which descend from the sloe by the way), a typical ringed bark, that means the bark is deductable in ribbons around the stem axis.
All cherry species are very susceptible for the fungal disease 'Monilia'. This disease appears in two phenotypes: As tip drought of the branches and as fruit rod. Preventive actions are: Removing dead sprouts (cut back until into the healthy wood), eradicating rotten fruits and fruit mummies, especially avoiding nitrogen fertilization. A reliable chemical combat against the Monilia tip drought is possible at best with therefore permitted fungicides.
Another feature is represented by the gummosis of the cherry species (in contrast to the descendants of the sloe). This can be avoided by professional pruning widely. Especially the correct prune date counts among that; Cherries should be pruned around Midsummer's Day, after the harvest in the end of June if possible. And cherries want to be pruned distinctly less than the stone fruit species; among other things the cherry may otherwise get radiation damages because of thin ringed bark relatively quickly, what would however be a decidedly great pity.