Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Prunus emarginata

Bitter cherry

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Prunus emarginata (Bitter cherry)
Vick, Albert F. W.
Thicket-forming shrub or small tree with rounded crown, slender, upright branches, bitter foliage, and small, bitter cherries.

This is the most common western cherry. The scientific name describes the notched petals. As the common name indicates, the fruit is not edible; like the bark and leaves, it is intensely bitter. However, the fruit is consumed by many songbirds and mammals and the foliage is browsed by deer and livestock.

Image Gallery:

3 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Red

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AZ , CA , ID , MT , NV , NM , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: British Columbia, Washington, and W. Montana south to S. California and SW. New Mexico; to 9000 (2743 m) in south.
Native Habitat: Moist soils of valleys and on mountain slopes; in chaparral and coniferous forests.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium


Use Wildlife: Seeds contained in the bright red cherries are eagerly harvested by Evening Grosbeaks in early autumn.
Warning: The seeds of all Prunus species, found inside the fruits, contain poisonous substances and should never be eaten. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable be
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Admiral, Azure, Swallowtail (larval), orange tip, elfin, and blue (nectar) butterflies.
Nectar Source: yes

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Prunus emarginata is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Pale Swallowtail
(Papilio eurymedon)

Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
(Microtia elva)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2007-01-01