The black cherry is a species in the subgenus Padus and is a semi-evergreen deciduous tree (except on the extreme southern part of its range at lower elevations where it sometimes is semi-evergreen), growing to 49–98 ft tall with a trunk diameter of up to 28–47 in, occasionally more, with flowers in racemes. Black cherries in the Northeastern US may exceed 70 feet in height, but in the Southwest and montane areas are typically much shorter. The leaves are simple, 2.4–5.5 in long, with a serrated margin. The flowers are small 0.39–0.59 in diameter), with five white petals and about 20 stamens, and are fragrant; there are around 40 flowers on each raceme. The species epithet, serotina, means “late,”and refers to the tree flowering later in the season than many other cherry species. The fruit is a drupe, 1 centimeter (0.39 in) in diameter, green to red at first, ripening to black; it is usually astringent and bitter when eaten fresh, but also somewhat sweet. The fruit is readily eaten by birds.
A mature black cherry can easily be identified in a forest by its very broken, dark grey to black bark, which has the appearance of very thick, burnt cornflakes. However, for about the first decade or so of its life, the bark resembles that of a birch, and is thin and striped. It can also quickly be identified by its long, shiny leaves resembling those of a sourwood, and by an almond-like odor when a young twig is scratched and held close to the nose
Prunus serotina is a pioneer species. In the Midwest, it’s seen growing mostly in old fields with other sunlight-loving species, such as black walnut, black locust, and hackberry. Gleason and Cronquist (1991) describe P. serotina as “formerly a forest tree, now abundant as a weed-tree of roadsides, waste land, and forest-margins.”It is a moderately long-lived tree, with ages of up to 258 years known, though it is prone to storm damage, with branches breaking easily; any decay resulting, however, only progresses slowly. Seed production begins around 10 years of age, but does not become heavy until 30 years and continues up to 100 years. Germination rates are high, and the seeds are widely dispersed by birds who eat the fruit and then excrete them. Some seeds however may remain in the soil bank and not germinate for as long as three years. All Prunus species have hard seeds that benefit from scarification to germinate (which in nature is produced by passing through an animal’s digestive tract).
Like apricots, the seeds of black cherries contain compounds that can be converted into
cyanide, such asamygdalin. These compounds release hydrogen cyanide when the seed is ground or minced, which releases enzymes that break down the compounds. These enzymes include amygdalin beta-glucosidase,prunasin beta-glucosidase and mandelonitrile lyase. In contrast, although the flesh of cherries also contain these compounds, they do not contain the enzymes needed to produce cyanide, so the flesh is safe to eat.
The foliage, particularly when wilted, contains cyanogenic glycosides, which convert to hydrogen cyanide if eaten by animals. Farmers are recommended to remove any trees that fall in a field containing livestock, because the wilted leaves could poison the animals. Removal is not always practical, though, because they often grow in very large numbers on farms, taking advantage of the light brought about by mowing and grazing. Entire fencerows can be lined with this poisonous tree, making it difficult to monitor all the branches falling into the grazing area. Black cherry is a leading cause of livestock illness, and grazing animals’ access to it should be limited.
Poisoning Symptoms include:
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as a partial reference of the potential poisons that could harm your dog.
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