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Prunus serotina var. rufula

Prunus serotina Ehrh. var. rufula (Woot. & Standl.) McVaugh

Chisos Black Cherry, Southwestern Black Cherry

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Synonym(s): Prunus virens var. rufula


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Following McVaughs description, Prunus serotina var. rufula is a variety of P. serotina that occurs from southeastern Arizona and New Mexico south through the Sierra Madre Occidental to the Mexican states of Durango and Guanajuato. It and variety virens are subsumed under subspecies virens, which is characterized by smaller size than more easterly varieties (to 30 ft. tall), generally diminished leaf and branch size, and an often shrubby form. Variety rufula is distinguished from variety virens by densely rufous-hirsutulous branchlets and raceme axes and shorter, stouter petioles 5-7 mm in length. Despite McVaugh's description, widely referenced Texas botanist Benny Simpson has referred Texas populations to variety rufula, and other Texas plant writers have followed his example.


From the Image Gallery

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub , Tree
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Oblanceolate , Ovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Crenate , Serrate
Leaf Apex: Acuminate
Leaf Base: Cuneate
Leaf Texture: Smooth
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Raceme
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Usually up to about 30 feet tall, often much smaller. Some authorities say this species may reach up to 100 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red to purple-black.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Blooms right after leaf emergence.


Native Distribution: Per McVaugh, from southeastern Arizona and New Mexico south through the Sierra Madre Occidental to Durango and Guanajuato in Mexico
Native Habitat: Streamsides, river banks, canyons

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay


Use Ornamental: Showy, easily grown shrub or small tree with ornamental blooms and fruits
Use Wildlife: Fruit eaten by a variety of birds and mammals. Flowers visited by insects.
Use Food: Cherries eaten raw (must be pitted) and used in jellies, jams, pies, and as a flavoring extract in drinks and syrups.
Use Medicinal: Inner bark used in cough syrups, sedatives, and tonics.
Use Other: Wood long used in furniture making and other things because of its lustrous, dark red tint.
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. Symptoms include gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma, respiratory failure. Toxic Principle: Cyanogenic glycoside, amygdalin, prussic acid.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: For a variety of butterflies and moths
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: No

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Propagation Material: Hardwood Cuttings , Root Cuttings , Seeds , Semi-hardwood Cuttings , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Seeds require cold stratification. Cuttings that work best are summer semi-hardwood.
Seed Collection: : Collect fruit when it is filled out, firm, and its ripe color. Clean seeds from pulp and briefly air dry. (Seeds to be sown immediately in fall do not need drying.) Storage viability is maintained at 31-41 degrees.
Maintenance: Keep fallen leaves, twigs, and branches picked up if you have herbivorous animals, as all parts except the fruit are highly toxic.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX


Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Prunus serotina var. rufula in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Prunus serotina var. rufula in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Prunus serotina var. rufula


Record Modified: 2023-05-10
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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