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Prunus serotina var. virens (Southwestern black cherry)
Alder, Michael G.

Prunus serotina var. virens

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

Southwestern Black Cherry, Southwestern Chokecherry, Black Cherry

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Synonym(s): Prunus virens

USDA Symbol: prsev

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Following McVaugh's description, Prunus serotina var. virens is a variety of P. serotina that occurs from west Texas west to Arizona and south in mountains to the Mexican states of Jalisco and Guanajuato, with an isolated population in south-central Texas. It and variety rufula 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 virens is distinguished from variety rufula by branchlets and raceme axes that are almost or entirely hairless and longer, less stout leaf petioles to 1.2 cm long.


From the Image Gallery

2 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Oblanceolate , Obovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
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: Up to 30 ft. tall, usually much smaller
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Dark red to purple-black

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Blooms right after leaves emerge.


Native Distribution: Arizona east to west Texas, south in mountains to Jalisco and Guanajuato in Mexico, with an isolated population in south-central Texas in Bexar and Wilson counties
Native Habitat: Canyons and intermontane spaces in a variety of soil types.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2) , Acidic (pH<6.8) , Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Widely adaptable to a variety of soils and pH levels, from igneous to limestone. The disjunct central Texas population is in deep sand.
Conditions Comments: Though adaptable within its range, attempts to grow it by botanist Benny Simpson in Dallas and San Antonio were not successful.


Use Ornamental: A showy shrub or small tree with handsome trunk and branches, attractive foliage, especially in fall, and ornamental blooms and fruit. Easy to grow.
Use Wildlife: Fruit consumed by many birds and mammals.
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 wide 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.
Seed Treatment: For spring sowing, stratify seeds in moist sand for 30-60 days in a greenhouse, then cold stratify (36-41 degrees) for 60-90 days. Plant well before high temperatures.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Keep fallen leaves, twigs, and branches picked up if you have herbivorous animals, as all parts except the fruit are highly toxic.

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-PM-4 Collected 2006-07-31 in Jeff Davis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2011-02-27
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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