En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Sunday - June 24, 2012

From: Boise , ID
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification, Poisonous Plants, Trees
Title: Plant ID of unknown purchased plant from Boise ID
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi! I bought a tree that the sales person didnt know what it was. I thought it was a cherry tree and now after about 3-4 yrs I know it is but..How do I know if it is an ornamental tree or real fruit tree? This sounds really dumb but there are what look like little tiny cherries but they are only on 1 stem with 1 cherry instead of 2 cherries on 2 stems together? If it is an ornamental tree will it get cherries like that that you can't eat or in a year or so will we have cherries? And if it is an ornamental tree and we eat the cherries will they be sour or bitter and will it hurt us to test taste them? thanks!

ANSWER:

Although it is too late to help you out, we want to say again and again, never, ever buy any plant and especially a tree, that does not have a nursery tag on it. It should have the scientific name of the plant and growing conditions, but it probably won't. It might have a promotional name that has nothing to do with what the plant is, but even that can be searched for on the Internet and you can find the scientific name and then search on that. If you see a plant you like with a cutesy name on it, write it down, go home and search on that name on the Internet and then decide if you are interested in purchasing it. When you buy a plant you know nothing about, you are not only committing time, money and back muscles, but you may purchase and bring home an invasive, non-native, hard to get rid of pest. If it doesn't belong in your part of the country, and isn't invasive, it will very likely die and have to be hauled away. Just a few minutes of common sense can save you a world of expense and trouble.

We don't even have enough clues to know if it is indeed a cherry tree, which would be a member of the Prunus genus. Here is a website on Types of Cherry Trees, which might give you some more clues.

Warning: All parts of Prunus species except the fruits contain poisonous substances and should never be eaten. The bark, leaves, and seeds of this species are especially toxic. POISONOUS PARTS: Wilted leaves, twigs (stems), seeds. Highly toxic to humans and herbivorous mammals. May be fatal if ingested.

It is more likely that the plant is not even native to North America, which is where Mr. Smarty Plants' experties lies. We can't even think of a term to search on the Internet for. About the best we can do right now is, to help you become familiar with our Native Plant Database by searching for possibilities on the berries/cherries, giving you links to their webpages and you might stumble across your plant, we hope. We will choose only those species that have "cherry" in their common names.

In addition, we suggest you contact the University of Idaho Extension Office for Ada County and ask if it is permissible to bring in a stem of the berries and see if anyone there can identify the plant. It could be a large shrub and not a tree at all, but if it is common enough in your area perhaps you will be able to get enough information to see if is safe to keep on your property.

In terms of whether the fruit will ever get any bigger, we doubt it. A tree that you have had that long can be considered to be mature enough that you are seeing its usual fruit. We are going to look at some of the genus Prunus; you can follow the plant links to our webpage on each plant, as well as pictures, and compare them with your tree.

Prunus emarginata (Bitter cherry) - native to Idaho

Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry) - native to Idaho

Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel)

Prunus ilicifolia (Hollyleaf cherry) - Pictures

Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii (Hollyleaf cherry) - Pictures

Prunus pensylvanica (Pin cherry) - Pictures

Prunus pumila (Sand cherry) - Pictures

Prunus serotina var. virens (Southwestern black cherry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Bitter cherry
Prunus emarginata

Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana

Cherry laurel
Prunus caroliniana

Southwestern black cherry
Prunus serotina var. virens

More Trees Questions

Mystery Fruit in Ashland Oregon
November 10, 2010 - Hi, I live in Oregon and while I was picking wild apples I came across what I thought was a lemon tree. I picked some of the smaller fruits that grew in pairs and had a small, yellow lemon appearance ...
view the full question and answer

Juniper as host of cedar-apple rust
July 17, 2007 - Thanks for the helpful advice on the Eastern Red Cedar. I was wondering if you could ease my mind about a potential problem. I have read up on some of the native plants in my area in a very good book ...
view the full question and answer

Revegetating a hillside in western Washington state
October 10, 2012 - Removing several downed trees across my dock demolished the native plants growing on the hillside and the contractor pulled out their remains. The area faces east on an open freshwater bay. Close to...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Bald Cypress in Wylie, TX
January 02, 2010 - I have a 6 year old bald cypress that sustained damage to the upper portion of its trunk a couple of years ago. Since that time it has grown more outward than upward and developed a rounder shape. I...
view the full question and answer

Care of a live oak with decay and perhaps fungus on trunk
July 14, 2011 - I have a huge live oak on my property in Salado that just lost a very large branch. The branch had decay in the center and also has a variety of bugs in it, espeically since it has been on the ground...
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