Black Cherry– Prunus serotina
How to reduce this invasive tree species with small scale forestry management and the introduction of more tree and shrub species, while at the same time accepting its presence in the forest ecosystem
The black cherry thrives in our forests and nature reserves, much to the frustration of many forest and nature managers. The species originates from North America and since its introduction in Northwestern Europe, it has been so successful that it has been awarded with the title of “forest pest”. Years of intensive control followed. After several decades of large-scale effort, it has become clear that combating black cherry not only requires a lot of time and financial resources but is by no means always successful. By looking at the problem from the ecosystem resilience approach, it is possible to work towards a balance in these systems. A situation in which the black cherry is not a threat to the native forest ecosystem, but rather a valuable component.
Dutch: Amerikaanse vogelkers
Français: Cerisier tardif
Deutsch: Späte Traubenkirsche
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Ecosystem resilience approach of black cherry
The LIFE Resilias ecosystem resilience approach (ERA) for black cherry consists of planting native tree and shrub species that compete with black cherry, in combination with strengthening the forest structure through small-scale forest management. In doing so, we are guided by the needs and possibilities of the specific forest. This gives the tree and shrub species that we plant the optimal opportunity to compete with black cherry, so that a good balance in the forest ecosystems can be achieved.
The presence of black cherry in forests affects biodiversity. Light-dependent species in the herb layer are negatively affected by the developing shrub layer. The species composition is shifting towards what are called “true forest species”, such as wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), solomon’s seal (Polygonatum multiflorum) and May lily (Maianthemum bifolium). In the litter layer and in the soil, we observe a shift from species that are bound to slow litter decomposition (mites, springtails) to species that are bound to a fast nutrient cycle, such as bacteria and earthworms. The rich litter of black cherry was once one of the main reasons for introducing this species to our forests. The rapid development of black cherry regeneration – which was such a problem for forest managers in the pine monocultures – appears to contribute to the maintenance of the forest climate in mixed forests. Black cherry wood (American cherry) is comparable to wood from the sweet cherry (European cherry) and is mainly used in furniture and veneer applications.
Black cherry is a plant of the rose family (Rosaceae). It is now a common European tree species on sandy soils from northern France to Poland. It occurs mainly as undergrowth in light forests or as shrubs in forest edges. This shrubbery is the result of growing in the shade and regularly cutting down the tree in an attempt to keep the species in check. However, the black cherry can develop into an impressive tree if it gets the chance to grow undisturbed with sufficient light.
White flower clusters appear with 20 to 60 flowers from which, after pollination, some cherries appear. The leaves are oblong, with a finely serrated leaf edge and a smooth, dark green top. In autumn, the leaves turn yellow, sometimes green-purple. In winter the species lose their leaves. The cherries have a fixed crown at the base, which is formed by the remaining calyx tube. The fruit is an up to 1 cm large drupe with a 6-7 mm kernel and is edible for humans. The black cherry can be recognized by the grey stripes on the bark of the young wood (the lenticels), perpendicular to the growth direction of the twig or branch. The reddish-brown twigs are slender, round, and smooth with small, light-brown buds. Scratching young twigs and bruising the leaves releases a bitter almond-like smell.