Facts about Nanking Cherry

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Nanking cherry Quick Facts
Name: Nanking cherry
Scientific Name: Prunus tomentosa
Origin Northern and western China (including Tibet), Korea, Mongolia, and possibly northern India
Colors Pale pink to bright cherry red
Shapes Small fruits, only 1- 2 centimeters in diameter, cherry shaped, and with a large pit inside
Taste Sweet but slightly tart
Health benefits Beneficial for respiration, digestion, cancer and uric acid levels in the blood
Nanking cherry scientifically known as Prunus tomentosa is a popular shrub belonging to Rosaceae (Rose family). The plant is native to northern and western China (including Tibet), Korea, Mongolia, and possibly northern India (Jammu and Kashmir, though probably only cultivated there) and naturalized in Japan, Russia, and other northern regions of the continent. It has become a staple back yard garden plant in Russia and much of Eastern Europe. Nanjing cherry, Korean cherry, Manchu cherry, downy cherry, Shanghai cherry, Ando cherry, mountain cherry, Chinese bush cherry, Chinese dwarf cherry, Mongolian cherry, Aengdo, Aengdonamu, Mao Yingtao, Maotao, Maoyingtao, Yeyingtao, Yusura ume, Luddkörsbär and Japanische Mandelkirsche are some of the popular common names of the plant.

It is commonly called downy cherry in recognition of its downy leaves, downy stems and downy fruits. Genus name Prunus comes from Latin means plum or cherry tree. Specific epithet tomentosa means thickly matted with hairs. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, and is sold in local markets. It is occasionally cultivated as a fruit crop in Asia, and is commonly grown as an ornamental tree. Fruit is edible but of variable quality ranging from tart to sweet. Fruit may be used in pies, jams or jellies. Birds love the fruit. With proper care and maintenance, the tree can live up to 50 years. Without care, plants have supposedly lived 20 years or more.

Nanking Cherry Facts

Name Nanking cherry
Scientific Name Prunus tomentosa
Native Northern and western China (including Tibet), Korea, Mongolia, and possibly northern India (Jammu and Kashmir, though probably only cultivated there) and naturalized in Japan, Russia, and other northern regions of the continent. It has become a staple back yard garden plant in Russia and much of Eastern Europe
Common Names Nanjing cherry, Korean cherry, Manchu cherry, downy cherry, Shanghai cherry, Ando cherry, mountain cherry, Chinese bush cherry, Chinese dwarf cherry, Mongolian cherry, Aengdo, Aengdonamu, Mao Yingtao, Maotao, Maoyingtao, Yeyingtao, Yusura ume, Luddkörsbär, Japanische Mandelkirsche, Cerisier Tomenteux
Name in Other Languages Azerbaijani: Keçəli albalı
Bengali: Nānakiṁ cēri (নানকিং চেরি)
Breton: Gwez-ragoumin
Chinese:  Mao ying tao (毛樱桃), Mei t’ao
Croatian: Nankinška trešnja
Danish: Mandshurisk kirsebaer
Dutch: Viltkers
English: Manchu bird cherry, Mandchu cherry, Manchu cherry, Nanking cherry, Korean cherry, Downy cherry, Ando cherry, Chinese bush cherry, Chinese Dwarf Cherry, Mongolian Cherry, mountain cherry, Shanghai Cherry  
Estonian: Vilt-kirsipuu
Finnish: Nukkakirsikka
French: Cerisier tomenteux, Ragouminier
German: Japanische Mandelkirsche, japanische Kirschmandel, Korea-Kirschbaum
Japanese:   Yusura ume (ユスラウメ), Manshuu cherii,   Manshuu cherii,  Manshuu cherii, Japanische Mandelkirsche
Korean: Aengdunamu  (앵두나무), aeng do (앵도)
Lithuanian: Veltininė vyšnia
Persian: گیلاس کره‌ای
Russian:  Vishnia voilochnaia (вишня войлочная)            
Serbian: Japanska dlakava višnja (јапанска длакава вишња)
Swedish: Luddkörsbär
Ukrainian: Vishnya postistina (Вишня повстиста)
Vietnamese: Anh đào núi
Plant Growth Habit Broadly spreading, twiggy, hardy, deciduous shrub
Growing Climates Slopes, in ravines, Forest on mountain slopes, forest margins, thickets and meadows
Soil Flourishes in well-drained, slightly acidic soil
Plant Size 100 – 200 cm tall and around twice as wide. It rarely becomes more tree-like and can then grow up to 300 cm tall
Bark Glabrous, copper-tinted black and exfoliating when mature
Leaf Alternate, 2–7 cm long and 1–3.5 cm broad, oval to obovate, acuminate with irregularly serrate margins, rugose, dark green, pubescent above and tomentose below, with glandular petioles
Flowering season March to April
Flower White or pink in a scarlet calyx, opening with or before the leaves in spring. They are reliably profuse, arranged in clusters on scarlet pedicels and are 1.5–2.0 cm in diameter
Fruit Shape & Size Small fruits, only 1- 2 centimeters in diameter, cherry shaped, and with a large pit inside
Fruit Color Pale pink to bright cherry red skin
Fruit Color Shiny and smooth
Propagation By seed, softwood cuttings or root suckers
Taste Sweet but slightly tart
Lifespan With proper care and maintenance, they can live up to 50 years. Without care, plants have reportedly lived 20 years or more
Season July
Precautions
  • In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
  • In larger concentrations, however, cyanide can cause gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma and respiratory failure leading to death.

Plant Description

Nanking cherry is a broadly spreading, twiggy, hardy, deciduous shrub that normally grows about 100 – 200 cm tall and around twice as wide. It rarely becomes more tree-like and can then grow up to 300 cm tall. The plant is found growing in slopes, in ravines, forest on mountain slopes, forest margins, thickets and meadows. The plant flourishes in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Plants grown from seed may develop a deep taproot, and are very drought tolerant after initial establishment. Bark is glabrous, copper-tinted black and exfoliating when mature.

Leaves

Nanking leaves are elliptical, alternate 2–7 cm long and 1–3.5 cm broad, oval to obovate, acuminate, with irregularly serrated edges alternating on stems.  They are deeply veined, and are also covered with white, downy fuzz especially on the pale underside which is the origin of one of its common names of ‘downy cherry’. It is dark green, pubescent above and tomentose below, with glandular petioles.

Bud Arrangement Alternate
Bud Color Brown
Bud Size 1/8 inch
Leaf Type and Shape Simple, elliptical
Leaf Margins Unequally serrate
Leaf Surface Rough-veined, pubescent
Leaf Length 2 to 3 inches
Leaf Width 1 to 1½ inches
Leaf Color Medium to dark green above; white hairs below; yellow fall color

Flowers

These darling buds of May are one of the great pleasures of spring.  The Nanking blossoms appear in our yard around the second week of May, before the leaves have emerged. The flowers are white or pink in a scarlet calyx, opening with or before the leaves in spring. They are reliably profuse, arranged in clusters on scarlet pedicels and are 1.5–2.0 cm in diameter. Flowers are very frost tolerant.

Flower Type Small but numerous
Flower Color Pink in bud, becoming near white
Fruit Type Cherry-shaped drupe
Fruit Color Dark red

 

Fruit

Nanking cherry bushes need another Prunus plant to pollinate them.  In other words you’ll need to have another Nanking cherry nearby, or any type of cherry, or a plum, or an apricot, and so on.  This is currently our biggest hindrance to fruit set. 

The clusters of fruit are nestled in among the leaves, spaced out at intervals along the branches. Nanking cherries are quite small, measuring 1- 2 centimeters in diameter (about the size of a blueberry). Their pale pink to bright cherry red skin is shiny and smooth, and the pulp is juicy. Each fruit contains one seed, much like other cherries. Nanking cherries are sweet and tart.

Unlike the image of cherries that most of us have in our brains, Nankings are connected to the branches of the shrub by very short stalks.  They do not grow in the drooping clusters, but rather in lines up and down the length of the branches.

Health Benefits of Nanking Cherry

Listed below are some of the health benefits of using Nanking cherry

Promote Hair Growth

Earlier research had found that Nanking cherry has protective action on skin tissues and its subsidiary organs. It has also shown a strong role in promoting hair growth.

When Prunus tomentosa thumb total flavone (PTTTF) was continuously used on external local parts of phalacrosis mouse models. It was discovered that PTTTF had significantly promoted the hair growth cycle and follicle maturation. However more research is required.

Anticancer Activity

Research shows that phenylpropanoid sucrose esters, isolated from leaves of Nanking cherry have shown cytotoxic activity against four human cancer cell lines tested.

The cytotoxic activity of these isolates was stronger when compared with the positive control 5-fluorouracil used. The results also indicate these isolates might be a promising source for anti-cancer drug candidates.

Anti-oxidant and Inhibitory Activity

Nanking cherry seeds consist of flavonoids that are known to exhibit antioxidant activity.

Research had also revealed that flavonoids present in the seed extract of Nanking cherry were able to exhibit Antioxidant and Inhibitory activity on Nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2 production.

The DPPH radical scavenging assay had also shown that the antioxidant activity of some of the flavonoids was also higher than the positive control, Ascorbic acid.

Works against frostbites

Research conducted to know the effect of Prunus tomentosa thumb total flavone on frostbite had proven that, PTTTF has significant anti-frostbite effect.

Research also said that the total flavone can inhibit the MMP9 expression in frostbite tissues and IL-1β in peripheral blood mononuclear cells to relieve the inflammation caused by frostbite.

Traditional uses and benefits of Nanking cherry

  • In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer.
  • In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
  • The fruit can also help lower uric acid levels in the blood, which can result in gout.

Culinary Uses

  • Fruit can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • The unripe fruits can be pickled.
  • Seed can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • The buds are cooked and eaten.
  • Leaves are used for pickling of vegetables and mushrooms.
  • Fruit is edible, being an ingredient of juice, jam, and wine, and in pickled vegetables and mushrooms.
  • Nanking cherries are eaten fresh or used to make pies, jams and jellies.
  • Use Nanking cherries to flavor vinegar or pickle unripe fruits.
  • Fruits are processed into wine, syrup, jellies and pies.

Other Facts

  • A green dye can be obtained from the leaves.
  • A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.
  • It is an excellent windbreak hedgerow.
  • Plants produce suckers freely.
  • Flowers are pinkish – white fragrant that attract lot of beneficial insects.
  • In Manchuria and the Midwest United States, the shrub is planted in hedgerows to provide a windbreak.
  • The plant produces fruits after 3 years when grown from seed.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=504627#null

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomydetail?id=30138

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Prunus+tomentosa

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=286358

https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=PRTO80

http://www.narc.gov.jo/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=30138

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/44369

https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/prunus-tomentosa/

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/PRNTO

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/rjp-3246

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_tomentosa

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/trees/handbook/th-3-11.pdf

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