Common Name: pin cherry, bird cherry, wild red cherry, fire cherry

Scientific Name: 
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Species: P. pensylvanica

Hardiness Zone: 2 to 5
Height: 25 to 30 ft
Width: 18 to 25 ft

Common Characteristics: ​

Pin cherry is small and narrow tree, typically reaching 25-30 feet at maturity and forms dense thickets. It is fast growing with a short lifespan (20-40 years). The leaves (up to 5 inches long) are alternately arranged, simple with finely serrated margins, and shiny dark green with a paler underside. The leaves turn yellow to red in the fall. The white and fragrant flowers form in clusters in the spring. The fruits are vibrant red drupes (0.25 inches) each containing one seed and appear in the summer and fall. The young bark is reddish-brown to gray and forms orange to dark red horizontal lenticels with maturity. The bark also peels in horizontal strips. The twigs are red to reddish-brown.

Where It Grows:

Pin cherry grows best in cool climates, full sun, and moist, sandy, well-drained soils. It can tolerate alkaline and dry soils, and some drought. Dry open fields and wood-edge clearings are areas where pin cherry trees grow. They are one of the first trees to invade an area after a fire. Pin cherry does not tolerate shade. 

How It's Used:

While pin cherry is an attractive tree due to its bark, flowers, and fruit, it is often not used in landscaping because it is short-lived and susceptible to pests and diseases. 

Ecosystem Services:

Pin cherry is considered of high value for wildlife. Reflected in one of its common names, bird cherry, birds will eat the drupes from this tree. Small mammals and bears will also eat the drupes. White-tailed deer and moose use it for browse and ruffed grouse eat the buds. 

Where It Is Native To:

Pin cherry is native to the upper Midwest, specifically Illinois. 


Problems that pin cherry can have are cherry leaf spot, black knot, powdery mildew, rust, fire blight, borer, and canker. However, it has tolerance to black walnut toxicity. 

Other Details: 

The bark, flowers, leaves, and stems of pin cherry are poisonous to humans.


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