This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
There is no trace of this in early Glacial beds. It is found in the Northern Temperate Zone in Europe, eastward to the Himalayas, in the Azores, and Canaries. In Great Britain it is found in Cornwall, Somerset, N. Devon, Wilts, Dorset, Isle of Wight, West Sussex, throughout the Thames province except West Kent, in Anglia every where except in East Norfolk, Hunts, and only in Hereford, Warwick, and Salop in the Severn district; in Wales in Brecon, Pembroke, Cardigan, Carnarvon, Denbigh, and Anglesea. Elsewhere it is found in Leicester, Chester, Mid, West, and N.W. Yorks, Westmorland, and Cumberland. It is wild or well-established south of Yorkshire. It is rare in Ireland and the Channel Islands. Watson regards this with some hesitation as indigenous. The Wild Cherry, however, is a feature in some woodlands, notably in the south, where it occurs with other sylvan trees, such as Lime, Holly, White Beam, Mountain Ash, Wayfaring Tree, Elm, Oak, Beech, Aspen, and others.
This is an erect, branched tree, with shortly stalked, egg-shaped, lancelike leaves, which are smooth, dark bluish-green, spreading in two series in bud, scalloped, and toothed. The flowers are in shortly stalked umbels or clusters, the buds having rough outer margins, white, the petals blunt above, nearly erect, and the corolla is cup-shaped, the calyx-tube not narrowed from side to side.
The petals have a short claw, and have a slight notch at the end. The fruit is globose, black or red, acidic and staining.
The Wild Cherry Tree is distinguished by its lesser stature. The height is rarely more than 5-8 ft. The tree flowers in April and May. It is a deciduous tree, increased by grafting. It is evergreen in Ceylon, and in S. Europe retains its leaves some time.
Anthers and stigmas ripen together, and spread far apart away from the centre of the flower. The stigmas overtop the inner stamens, but are only on a level with the outer stamens. In some plants the anthers are ripe first. The flowers last a week. If insects touch the stigmas and anthers with different parts of the body when they seek for honey cross-pollination may result. Insects collecting or feeding on pollen or honey indiscriminately cross- or self-pollinate the plant. When the flowers are oblique pollen may fall from the taller stamens upon the stigma. The Wild Cherry is visited by the Honey Bee, Bombus, Osmia rufa, Andrena, Rhingia, Eristalis, and Lepidoptera, such as Large White (Pieris brassicce), Small White (P. rapce), Green-veined White (P. napi).
The fruit is an edible, bright-coloured, ovary wall or drupe, with a soft outer coat, luscious when ripe, and dispersed by birds, man, etc.
The Wild Cherry is more or less a sand plant requiring a sandy loam, but also a lime soil and humus to a slight degree.
The Garden Cherry is subjected to numerous ravages by fungi and insects, e.g. Exoascus, Podosphaera, Gnomonia, Plowrightia, Sclerotinia, Puccinia, Entomosporium, Corynum, Fusicladmm, Cladosporium, Ceriospora, Fusarium, Bacillus. It is attacked by the Aphis, Myzus cerasi and by the Scolytus rugulosus, Garden Chafer, Mottled Umber Moth, Cherry Aphis, Common Cockchafer, Weevil, Large Tortoise Shell, Winter Moth, Cherry and Pear Sawfly, also by the beetle Magdalinus cerasi, the Hymenoptera, Priophorus ructi, Pamphilus flaviventris, the Lepidoptera Cidaria psittacata, Clouded Silver Streak, Semasia walierana, Argyresthia pruniana; and the fly Rhagiletes cerasi feeds on it.
Photo. B. Hanley - Wild Cherry (prunus Cerasus, L.)
Cerasus, Pliny, is the Latin for cherry-tree, so named from the place whence it was brought to Italy.
Wild Cherry is called Agriot, Arbouses, Tulties. When seen in dreams it was a bad omen, and to dream of it meant inconstancy.
"A cherry year, a merry year."
A person on the lookout to make use of opportunity is said " to have a ready mouth for a ripe cherry ". And
"A woman and a cherry are painted for their own harm ".
Their awkwardness to eat caused the proverb:
"Eat pear with the king and cherries with the beggar ".
"Those that eat cherries with great persons shall have their eyes squinted out with the stones ".
For fever on St. John's Day it was recommended to lie naked under a cherry tree and shake the dew on one's back.
It was dangerous to climb a cherry tree on St. James's Day, as the chance of breaking one's neck is great. The tree was consecrated to the Virgin, who wished one day to refresh herself when she saw some cherries hanging on a tree, and asked Joseph to gather some for her. He hesitated, and, mocking her, said: "Let the father of thy child present them to you". No sooner had he said this than the bough inclined itself to her. Christ gave one to St. Peter, reminding him not to despise little things. The cuckoo must eat three meals of cherries before it ceases to sing.
This plant is the origin of the Morello Cherry and Kentish cherries. The fruit is small and acid when wild. In the fourteenth century ground-up cherry stones were supposed by the Doctrine of Signatures to cure stone.
The wood is close, and used for cabinet-work, and for making pipes and cigarette-holders, as well as walking-sticks. A spirit is distilled from the fruit called Kirschwasser (German for cherry-water). Noyau and Ratafia are flavoured with the kernels, which contain prussic acid.
From a variety grown in Dalmatia Maraschino is prepared.
Essential Specific Characters: - 92. Prunus Cerasus, L . - Shrub or tree, erect, 8-10 ft., leaves shortly stalked, doubly crenate, not drooping, glabrous, flowers in sessile umbels, white, calyx-tube not constricted, petals with a claw, fruit juicy, acid, red, round.