En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Is Black Cherry allelopathic from Austin

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - May 21, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Is Black Cherry allelopathic from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is the Black Cherry an appropriate tree to plant in north Austin as a shade tree? Your site says this tree may be allelopathic to garden plants . Do you know specifically which plants it might help or hinder? Thanks.

ANSWER:

There are five members of the Prunus genus with the words "black cherry" as part of their common names and are also native to Texas. They are Prunus serotina (black cherry), Prunus serotina var. eximia (black cherry), Prunus serotina var. rufula (black cherry), Prunus serotina var. serotina (black cherry) and Prunus serotina var. virens (black cherry). Of these, 2 are native to Travis County: Prunus serotina (black cherry) and Prunus serotina var. eximia (black cherry).

We found the reference to allelopathy that you mentioned on the webpage in our Native Plant Database for Prunus serotina (black cherry)

"The plant drops lots of twigs, leaves, and fruit, and in cultivation can be allelopathic to garden plants."

All members of the genus Prunus have poisonous parts. In fact, the only parts not poisonous are the skin and the fruit. The seeds are extremely poisonous, and the leaves, especially shriveled leaves, as well as twigs, branches and roots are poisonous. If soil beneath a plant is covered with litter that is toxic in nature, that is going to be a big barrier to the germination or flourishing of anything else. 

Different plants have different chemicals which cause their allelopathy. With the black cherry, it's a substance called amygdalin. The black walnut has juglones, the magnolia sesquiterpene lactones. The acidity in pine needles causes acidity in the soils which can be damaging to plants. To our knowledge, there are no studies presently available on what plants would be resistant to these allelopathic agents, regardless of what chemical is involved. If you had something you really wanted to plant beneath a Black Cherry, about your best defense would be to keep the ground beneath it thoroughly raked, removing and disposing of any litter as quickly as it appeared.

For many years, we gardened with volunteer (probably brought to us by birds) Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry). This was long before we had ever heard of allelopathy, and had a lot of native  Quercus stellata (post oak), also suspected of emitting substances to keep competitors from coming up. It was difficult to grow anything in that yard, and we always thought it was just the shade from the oaks. This article from Floridata, Prunus serotina, says that most people acquire the tree as we did, by bird delivery, and it is not widely available in the nursery trade. It can grow from 40 to 60 ft. tall in cultivation, and is said to be fast-growing. 

Your question was whether this plant would be appropriate. That is a decision only you can make; if you are determined to have flower beds beneath the tree or if you have small children or pets that might eat some of the fallen material, it is probably not appropriate. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Prunus serotina

Prunus serotina

Prunus serotina var. eximia

Prunus serotina var. eximia

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Transplant shock in non-native crape myrtle from Wesley Chapel, FL
June 12, 2012 - I just bought a 12 ft. crape myrtle and planted it, giving it plenty of water I think. After 3 days the leaves are wilting and flowers are falling off.
view the full question and answer

Holly-like groundcover under live oak tree.
June 21, 2012 - I have looked and looked and cannot identify a wonderful groundcover holly growing in the shade beneath my 100 year old Live Oak here in Austin. I have looked up every possible Ilex variety and am stu...
view the full question and answer

Existing live oak taking over in Monahans TX
March 22, 2011 - I have just purchased a home with a huge Live Oak tree in the front yard. The previous owners have over the years allowed the sucker roots to grow unchecked. The tree is shading most of the lawn (di...
view the full question and answer

Leaf drop from live oaks in mid-summer
July 08, 2013 - We have a live oak that is starting to drop a considerable amount of leaves here in early July in Cypress Texas. Its a mature tree with a base diameter of 12-14" and 25-30' tall. We live in a subd...
view the full question and answer

Removing leaves before transplanting from Miami
August 27, 2009 - What is good idea to remove some leaves before transplanting a plant??
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center