Genus: Prunus

Prunus serotina
Prunus serotina   Ehrh.  -  Black Cherry
Photo © by Peter Nelson
Taken at the Pine Barrens, NJ, 1967.

By Science Staff

Not peer reviewed

Last Modified 03/11/2013

Back to Rosaceae


Prunus L., Sp. Pl. 1: 473. 1753. Gen. Pl., ed. 5, 213. 1754. LECTOTYPE: Prunus domestica L., designated by Britton & Brown (1913).

Amygdalus L., Sp. Pl. 472. 1753. Gen. Pl., ed. 5, 212. 1754. LECTOTYPE: Amygdalus communis L. (=Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb), designated by Hitchcock & Green (1929).

Cerasus Mill., Gard. Dict. abr. ed. 4. 1754. TYPE: Not designated.

Persica Mill., Gard. Dict. abr. ed. 4. 1754. TYPE: Not designated.

Padus Mill., Gard. Dict. abr. ed. 4. 1754. LECTOTYPE: Padus avium Mill. (=Prunus padus L.), designated byBritton & Brown (1913).

Laurocerasus Tourn. ex Duhamel, Traite Arbr. Arbust. 1: 345, t. 133. 1755.

Druparia Clairv., Man. Herbor. Suisse, 158, 159. 1811, nom. illeg. (Art 52.1). TYPE: Not designated.

Key to the species of Prunus

1. Inflorescences elongate racemes of many (at least 12, usually at least 20) flowers, terminating in a new leafy branchlet of the current year...2
1. Inflorescences corymbs or umbels of fewer than 12 flowers (or flowers solitary), sessile or on short lateral shoots (leafy or not)...4

2. Flowers 1-1.5 cm across; fruit less than 8 mm in diam...Prunus padus
2. Flowers 0.8-1 cm across; fruit more than 8 mm in diam...3

3. Leaves with blades ovate or elliptic to lanceolate, mostly broadest at or below the middle, somewhat glossy above, the teeth somewhat incurved, giving the margin a crenulate aspect; calyx lobes entire or nearly so (at most 5 glandular teeth), persistent, with the floral tube beneath the maturing fruit...Prunus serotina
3. Leaves with blades elliptic to obovate, mostly broadest at or above the middle, dull above, the teeth narrowly acuminate and ascending to spreading, giving the margin a sharply and finely serrate aspect; calyx lobes with numerous irregular gland-tipped teeth, deciduous with the floral tube, leaving only a smooth disk beneath the maturing fruit...Prunus virginiana

4. Flowers and fruit sessile or nearly so, mostly solitary (or 2); ovaries and fruit densely pubescent; flowers pink or white...Prunus persica
4. Flowers and fruit on distinct slender pedicels, often not solitary; ovaries and fruit glabrous; flowers in most species white...5

5. Calyx lobes glabrous throughout (at most, glandular-margined); fruit (cherry) somewhat globose, not grooved, not glaucous, the pit rounded rather than 2-edged...6
5. Calyx lobes pubescent, at least sparsely at the base above; fruit (plum) with a longitudinal shallow furrow or groove, usually glaucous, the pit 2-edged, often somewhat flattened...10

6. Plant a low spreading shrub (native), with mostly decumbent or ascending elongate branches; leaf blades oblanceolate (to obovate-elliptic), the teeth obscure or absent on lower third or half; calyx lobes with irregularly glandular-toothed margins; petals less than 7.5 (9) mm long...Prunus pumila
6. Plant an erect small or large tree or tall bushy shrub; leaf blades ovate to obovate, regularly toothed to the base; calyx lobes without glands (or a few glandular teeth in the large-flowered P. cerasus); petals various...7

7. Petals 4-7.5 mm long; fruit less than 1 cm in diam...8
7. Petals ca. 9-15 mm long; fruit ca. 1.5-2.5 cm in diam...9

8. Inflorescences few-flowered corymbose racemes; petals glabrous; leaf blades round-ovate, less than 1.5 times as long as wide; fruit nearly black...Prunus mahaleb
8. Inflorescences usually umbellate (occasionally somewhat corymbose); petals hairy on the outside at the base; leaf blades usually at least twice as long as wide; fruit bright red...Prunus pensylvanica

9. Calyces with entire lobes, constricted below them; bud scales at base umbel not leaflike, the inner ones divergent or reflexed; leaves retaining some pubescence, especially along the midrib, beneath, the blades ca. 7-15 cm long at maturity and the petioles with conspicuous glands near the summit; fruit sweet...Prunus avium
9. Calyces with glandular-toothed lobes, not constricted below them; bud scales often with leaflike tips, the inner ones erect; leaves becoming glabrous beneath, the blades mostly 4-8 cm long at maturity with glands toward the base (rather than on the petiole); fruit sour...Prunus cerasus

10. Teeth of leaf sharp (almost bristle-tipped), glandless; calyx lobes without marginal glands (rarely a few teeth at end in P. americana)...11
10. Teeth of leaf gland-tipped (evident in young leaves unfolding as the flowers open), the rounded tip with a callous scar if gland is shed; calyx lobes with glandular margins (except in P. cerasifera)...13

11. Leaves ovate, oval, obovate, or rounded, long-acuminate, sharply serrate; petals 10-15 mm long; fruit red, purple, or yellow...Prunus americana
11. Leaves lanceolate to ovate, elliptic, or ovate-oblong, merely acute or acutish to obtuse or truncate, crenate or dentate, the teeth sharp-pointed; petals 4-8 mm long; fruit blue or dark purple (sometimes purple or yellow)...12

12. Pedicels and lower surface of leaf pubescent...Prunus maritima
12. Pedicels and lower leaf surface glabrous or nearly so...Prunus allegheniensis

13. Margins of calyx lobes pubescent but not glandular; petals ca. 5-7 mm long; young twigs shiny reddish-brown; leaves small, the blades mostly less than 5 cm long...Prunus cerasifera
13. Margins of calyx lobes glandular; petals 5-12 mm long; twigs and leaves various...14

14. Twigs not spiny, often glabrous; petals ca. 8-12 mm long; fruit over 2.5 cm diam., pendent at maturity...Prunus domestica
14. Twigs spiny, the young ones finely pubescent; petals 5-8 mm long; fruit usually less than 1 (1.5) cm diam., erect at maturity...Prunus spinosa

List of Prunus Species

References to Prunus

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