A cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy drupe(stone fruit).
The cherry fruits of commerce usually are obtained from a limited number of species such as cultivars of the sweet cherry, Prunus avium. The name 'cherry' also refers to the cherry tree, and is sometimes applied to almonds and visually similar flowering trees in the genus Prunus, as in "ornamental cherry", "cherry blossom", etc. Wild cherry may refer to any of the cherry species growing outside of cultivation, although Prunus avium is often referred to specifically by the name "wild cherry" in the British Isles.
Many cherries are members of the subgenus Cerasus, which is distinguished by having the flowers in small corymbs of several together (not singly, nor in racemes), and by having smooth fruit with only a weak groove along one side, or no groove. The subgenus is native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with two species in America, three in Europe, and the remainder in Asia. Other cherry fruits are members of subgenus Padus. Cherry trees with low exposure to light tend to have a bigger leaf size so they can intercept all light possible. Cherry trees with high exposure to light tend to have thicker leaves to concentrate light and have a higher photosynthetic capacity.
Most eating cherries are derived from either Prunus avium, the sweet cherry (also called the wild cherry), or from Prunus cerasus, the sour cherry.
Etymology and antiquity
The English word cherry, French cerise, Spanish cereza, and Turkish kiraz all derive from the Latin cerasum, which referred to a Greek region which today is the city of Giresun, Turkey from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe.
The indigenous range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.
Cherries were introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent by order of Henry VIII who had tasted them inFlanders.
The cultivated forms are of the species sweet cherry (P. avium) to which most cherry cultivars belong, and the sour cherry(P. cerasus), which is used mainly for cooking. Both species originate in Europe and western Asia; they do not cross-pollinate. Some other species, although having edible fruit, are not grown extensively for consumption, except in northern regions where the two main species will not grow. Irrigation, spraying, labor, and their propensity to damage from rain and hail make cherries relatively expensive. Nonetheless, demand is high for the fruit. In commercial production, cherries are harvested by using a mechanized 'shaker'. Hand picking is also widely used to harvest the fruit to avoid damage to both fruit and trees.
Common rootstocks include Mazzard, Mahaleb, Colt, and Gisela Series, a dwarfing rootstock that produces trees significantly smaller than others, only 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters) tall. Sour cherries require no pollenizer while few sweet varieties are self-fertile.
Like most temperate-latitude trees, cherry seeds require exposure to cold to germinate (an adaptation which prevents germination during the autumn, which would then result in the seedling being killed by winter temperatures). The pits are planted in the autumn (after first being chilled) and seedlings emerge in the spring. A cherry tree will take three to four years to produce its first crop of fruit, and seven years to attain full maturity. Because of the cold-weather requirement, none of the Prunusgenus can grow in tropical climates.
Cherries have a short growing season and can grow in most temperatelatitudes. Cherries blossom in April (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the peak season for cherries is in the summer. In southern Europe in June, in North America in June, in England in mid-July, and in south British Columbia (Canada) in June to mid-August. In many parts of North America, they are among the first tree fruits to flower and ripen in mid-Spring.
In the Southern Hemisphere, cherries are usually at their peak in late December and are widely associated with Christmas. 'Kordia' is an early variety which ripens during the beginning of December, 'Lapins peak' ripens near the end of December, and 'Sweethearts' finish slightly later.
Pests and diseases
Generally, cherry trees are a difficult fruit tree to grow and keep alive. They do not tolerate wetness. In Europe, the first visible pest in the growing season soon after blossom (in April in western Europe) usually is the black cherry aphid ("cherry blackfly", Myzus cerasi), which causes leaves at the tips of branches to curl, with the blackfly colonies exuding a sticky secretion which promotes fungal growth on the leaves and fruit. At the fruiting stage in June/July (Europe), the cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis cingulata and Rhagoletis cerasi) lays its eggs in the immature fruit, whereafter its larvae feed on the cherry flesh and exit through a small hole (about 1mm diameter), which in turn is the entry point for fungal infection of the cherry fruit after rainfall. In addition cherry trees are susceptible to bacterial canker, cytospora canker, brown rot, root rot, crown rot, and to several viruses.
The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:
Name Height Spread Ref.
Accolade 8m 8m 
Amanogawa 8m 4m 
Autumnalis (P. ×subhirtella) 8m 8m 
Autumnalis Rosea (P. ×subhirtella) 8m 4m 
Avium Grandiflora seePlena
Colorata (P. padus) 12m 8m 
Grandiflora see Plena
12m 12m+ 
Kiku-shidare-zakura 4m 4m 
Kursar 8m 8m 
Morello (P. cerasus) 4m 4m 
Okamé (P. × incam) 12m 8m 
Pandora 12m 8m 
Pendula Rosea 4m 4m 
Name Height Spread Ref.
Pendula Rubra 4m 4m 
Pink Perfection 8m 8m 
Plena (Grandiflora) 12m 8m+ 
Praecox (P. incisa) 8m 8m 
Prunus avium (wild cherry) 12m+ 8m+ 
Prunus × cistena 1.5m 1.5m 
Prunus sargentii(Sargent's cherry) 12m+ 8m+ 
Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry) 12m 8m+ 
Shirofugen 8m 8m 
Shirotai 8m 8m 
Shōgetsu 8m 8m 
Spire 12m 8m 
Stella 4m 4m 
Ukon 8m 8m+ 
See cherry blossom and Prunus for ornamental trees.
Major commercial cherry orchards in Europe are in Turkey, Italy, Spain and other mediterranean regions, and to a smaller extent in the Baltic States and southernScandinavia.
In France since the 1920s, the first cherries of the season come in April/May from the region of Céret (Pyrénées-Orientales), where the local producers send, as a tradition since 1932, the first crate of cherries to the French president of the Republic.
In the United States, most sweet cherries are grown in Washington, California,Oregon, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Important sweet cherry cultivars include Bing,Ulster, Rainier, Brooks, Tulare, King, and Sweetheart. Both Oregon and Michigan provide light-colored 'Royal Ann' ('Napoleon'; alternately 'Queen Anne') cherries for the maraschino cherry process. Most sour (also called tart) cherries are grown in Michigan, followed by Utah, New York, and Washington. Sour cherries include 'Nanking' and 'Evans'. Traverse City, Michigan claims to be the "Cherry Capital of the World", hosting a National Cherry Festival and making the world's largest cherry pie. The specific region of northern Michigan known for tart cherry production is referred to as the "Traverse Bay" region.
Native and non-native sweet cherries grow well in Canada's provinces of Ontarioand British Columbia where an annual cherry fiesta has been celebrated for seven consecutive decades in the Okanagan Valley town of Osoyoos. In addition to the Okanagan, other British Columbia cherry growing regions are the Similkameen Valley and Kootenay Valley, all three regions together producing 5.5 million kg annually or 60% of total Canadian output. Sweet cherry varieties in British Columbia include Rainier, Van, Chelan, Lapin, Sweetheart, Skeena, Staccato, Christalina and Bing.
In Australia, cherries are grown in all the states except for the Northern Territory. The major producing regions are located in the temperate areas within New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Western Australia has limited production in the elevated parts in southwest of the state. Key production areas include Young, Orange and Bathurst in New South Wales, Wandin, the Goulburn and Murray valley areas in Victoria, the Adelaide Hills region in South Australia, and the Huon and Derwent Valleys in Tasmania.
Key commercial varieties in order of seasonality include 'Empress', 'Merchant', 'Supreme', 'Ron's seedling', 'Chelan', 'Ulster', 'Van', 'Bing', 'Stella', 'Nordwunder', 'Lapins', 'Simone', 'Regina', 'Kordia' and 'Sweetheart'. New varieties are being introduced, including the late season 'Staccato' and early season 'Sequoia'. The Australian Cherry Breeding program is developing a series of new varieties which are under testing evaluation.
The New South Wales town of Young is called the "Cherry Capital of Australia" and hosts the National Cherry Festival.