Facts about Sand Cherry ~ Prunus pumila

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Sand cherry Quick Facts
Name: Sand cherry
Scientific Name: Prunus pumila
Origin Eastern and central Canada from New Brunswick west to Saskatchewan
Colors Reddish purple ripening to dark purple or nearly black
Shapes Small shiny globose cherry 13–15 millimeters (0.51–0.59 in) in diameter
Taste Pleasantly acid taste when fully ripe
Prunus pumila, commonly known as sand cherry, is a North American species of cherry in the rose family Rosaceae. The plant is native to eastern and central Canada from New Brunswick west to Saskatchewan and the northern United States from Maine to Montana, south as far as Colorado, Kansas, Indiana, and Virginia, with a few isolated populations in Tennessee and Utah. It grows in sandy locations such as shorelines and dunes. Some of the well-known popular names of the plants are Dwarf American Cherry, Sand cherry, Western sand cherry, Eastern sand cherry, Great Lakes sand cherry and Sesquehana sand cherry.

Plant Description

Sand cherry is an unarmed, diffusely branched, low growing deciduous shrub that normally grows to 2-6 feet tall depending on the variety. The plant is found growing in sand dunes, calcareous rocky shores, beaches, outwash plains, cliffs, balds, or ledges, shores of rivers or lakes, talus and rocky slopes, inter dunal flats, in Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula, rocky ledges, pavements, and summits. The plant requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil. The plant grows in the wild on sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils, dunes, beaches, and outwash plains – sites are typically dry and excessively drained. It thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone. It prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present. The plant forms dense clonal colonies by sprouts from the root system. Stems are usually erect-ascending and sometimes decumbent.

Sand Cherry Facts

Name Sand cherry
Scientific Name Prunus pumila
Native Eastern and central Canada from New Brunswick west to Saskatchewan and the northern United States from Maine to Montana, south as far as Colorado, Kansas, Indiana, and Virginia, with a few isolated populations in Tennessee and Utah
Common Names Dwarf American Cherry, Sand cherry, Western sand cherry, Eastern sand cherry, Great Lakes sand cherry, Sesquehana sand cherry
Name in Other Languages Azerbaijani: Bessey albalısı
Dutch: Zandkers
English: Sand cherry, Dwarf cherry, dwarf American cherry
Finnish: Hietakirsikka
French: Cerisier du Canada, Cerisier canadien, Cerisier des sables, Cerisier nain, Ragouminier
German: Kanadischer Kirsche, Kanadischer Kirschbaum, Niedriger kanadischer kirschbaum, Sand-Kirsche, Kirschbaum, Kanadischer Sand, kanadischer Sandkirschbaum
Italy: Ciliegio del Canada
Persian: پرونوس پومیلا
Polish: Wisnia drobna
Russian: Sliva karlikovaya (Слива карликовая)
Spanish: Cerezo del Canada
Swedish: Sandkörsbär
Plant Growth Habit Unarmed, diffusely branched, low growing, deciduous shrub
Growing Climates Sand dunes, calcareous rocky shores, beaches, outwash plains, cliffs, balds, or ledges, shores of rivers or lakes, talus and rocky slopes, interdunal flats, in both Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula,  rocky ledges, pavements, and summits
Soil Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil. The plant grows in the wild on sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils, dunes, beaches, and outwash plains – sites are typically dry and excessively drained. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone. Prefers some chalk in the soil but apt to become chlorotic if too much is present
Plant Size Grows to 2-6 feet tall depending on the variety
Stem Usually erect-ascending, sometimes decumbent. Older stems develop a grayish, glabrous bark, while younger twigs are often tannish- to reddish-brown or brown.
Twigs Red to reddish brown, shiny smooth developing a flaky, waxy cuticle
Bark Grayish brown, smooth becoming roughish with conspicuous horizontal pores
Leaf Simple, leathery and alternate, 4–7 centimeters (1.6–2.8 in) long and up to 2-3 centimeters (1 inch) wide
Flowering season May
Flower Flowers are 15–25 millimeters (0.59–0.98 in) in diameter with five white petals and 25–30 stamens. They are produced in small clusters of two to four.
Fruit Shape & Size Small shiny globose cherry 13–15 millimeters (0.51–0.59 in) in diameter
Fruit Color Reddish purple ripening to dark purple or nearly black
Propagation Semi-ripe cuttings
Taste Pleasantly acid taste when fully ripe though they are sometimes slightly bitter
Lifespan More than a year
Season Late July and early August
Traditional health Benefits
  • 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.

Twigs

Twigs are red to reddish brown, shiny smooth developing a flaky, waxy cuticle. Branches are spreading to ascending from low, sprawling basal stems. Bark is grayish brown, smooth becoming roughish with conspicuous horizontal pores (lenticels). Basal stems are about ¾ inch diameter.

Leaves

Leaves are simple, leathery and alternate, 4–7 centimeters (1.6–2.8 in) long and up to 2-3 centimeters (1 inch) wide. The blade is narrowly elliptic or widest near the tip (obovate) depending on the variety, with a pointed tip and tapering at the base to a ¼ to ½ inch stalk. The upper surface is dark green and somewhat shiny, the lower surface lighter and smooth. Edges are finely toothed except near the base.

Flowers

Numerous flat to convex clusters from lateral buds along the branches, each cluster a 1 to 3-flowered umbel (stalks all arising from the same point) and emerging before the leaves in spring. Flowers are about ½ inch across with 5 white, round to egg-shaped petals with a single slender style and a spray of slender, white, yellow-tipped stamens in the center. The 5 sepals are about 1/3 the length of the petals, lance-oblong, rounded at the tip, spreading, with several small glands along the edges near the tip. Inner and outer surfaces are smooth. Flower stalks are slender and hairless.

Fruit

Fertile flowers are followed by a small shiny globose cherry 13–15 millimeters (0.51–0.59 in) in diameter. It is reddish purple ripening to dark purple or nearly black in early summer. Each fruit consists of a single hard seed inside.

Culinary Uses

  • Fruit can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Seed can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter.
  • It can be eaten out of hand, used in preserves or dried for later use.

Other Facts

  • Green dye can be obtained from the leaves.
  • Dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.
  • It is used as a rootstock for the sour cherry.
  • Leaves can even provide fodder for livestock.
  • It is an excellent soil stabilizer and is used on dunes, roadside plantings etc.
  • It is also used as a rootstock and in breeding programs, especially with the Japanese plum.
  • It is a good dwarfing rootstock for peaches, apricots and plums.

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.
  • Some species’ leaves and fruits are poisonous to humans and can cause serious stomach pain when ingested.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=504625#null

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

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/44333

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

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=PRPU3

https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/prunus/pumila/

https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/shrub/sand-cherry

http://temperate.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Prunus+pumila

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

https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0707/ML070730114.pdf

http://tn-grin.nat.tn/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=30083

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/rjp-5914

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/59471/#b

http://www.kansasnativeplants.com/guide/plant_detail.php?plnt_id=776

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