Bird Cherry identification

The Bird Cherry Prunus padus is a small tree or shrub, native to northern Eurasia, including Britain. It grows well in hilly, limestone areas. Bird Cherry identification is by leaf shape, long tails of white flowers in spring, black berries in July and smooth bark. It is often planted in towns and cities because its attractive white flower clusters come out in early spring. It bears bitter black cherries which are eaten only by birds, hence the tree’s common name. Click on any photo to enlarge it.


Bird Cherry tree in spring

A group of small trees in flower in April. Outer shoots have few leaves.

Bird Cherry leaf

The leaf is oval and toothed but the teeth are much smaller than those on the Wild Cherry. There are 2 glands near the base of the leaf. These secrete nectar, a sugary liquid that attracts ants which in turn protect the leaves against leaf-eaters such as caterpillars.

Bird Cherry flowers

The flowers are densely packed along a main stalk, with each flower on its own short stalk. This form of flower cluster is called a raceme by botanists. Photo taken in mid April.

Bird Cherry flowers close-up

The flower buds on a raceme open gradually, with those at the base opening first and those near the tip opening last. The flower clusters stand upright in April but droop later in long tails.

Bird Cherry fruit in autumn

Ripe fruit in September. This type of fruit is known by botanists as a drupe. It has 3 layers – the outer skin, a fleshy layer and then a hard stone in the middle which encloses the seed.

Bird Cherry bark

The bark is smooth, without the horizontal bands of the Wild Cherry.