Black Cherry Trees: May to August

There are about two dozen large wild Black Cherry trees scattered over several grassy acres in Eliza Howell Park. They are mature trees, many of them more than 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide.

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While I pay some attention to these trees in my walks throughout the year, I devote considerably more time from May to August.

May is blossom time. These cherry trees have more fruit in some years than in others; the plentiful blossoms in 2018 indicate a very productive fruit crop this year.

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Even if they were not an indication of the fruit to come, the lovely blossoms would definitely engage my interest and attention.

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May and June are the main bird-nest watching months and the cherry trees are popular nesting sites. Even before the blossoms appear, Baltimore Orioles build their nests; I found 2 in cherry trees in 2018. Also in 2018, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher has a cherry-tree nest and a bird box attached to a cherry tree this spring is being used by a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. There are no doubt other nests I have not seen.

This oriole below is feeding young in June in a cherry tree.

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Photo by Margaret Weber

As soon as the blooms fall, the green cherries are evident.

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Many birds cannot wait till the cherries are ripe (black), but begin eating them when they are red. By August, the trees are attracting numerous fruit-eating birds. American Robins and Cedar Waxwings are the most common and most dedicated cherry eaters.

Typically, about half of the robins appear to be juveniles with their heavily spotted breasts. And a number of the waxwings have blurry streaks and lack crests, indicating that they are youngsters as well.

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Black cherries are edible for humans as well, though they are quite bitter, at least until fully ripe (if the birds let them hang on that long). The reddish brown wood of the black cherry tree is often used in furniture and cabinet making.

By September other annual natural happenings in the park take up more of my attention and my walk route changes. But until then, the cherries are definitely part of my nature walks.

 

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