Cherry: Prunus avium


Jonathan Sheppard 2015


Wild cherry can be considered widespread throughout Europe and beyond, extending north into Scandinavia (to 61°N), south into northern Africa and west into Asia and Siberia. However, it is difficult to ascertain the natural range of the species due to widespread and long term cultivation . Since altitude and thus mean annual air temperature affects the potential rate of growth of P. avium, the species range can be found from sea level in northern latitudes, to 1,700 m in southern locations. Pure stands are rarely found, rather as a scattered component of mixed woodland or occurring in clumps and may be present as lone trees within fields, at field edges, utilised within streuobst-like systems (agrosilvopasture) or within planted high intensity orchards.

P. avium is intolerant of frequent drought stress (Hemery et al. 2010; Savill 1991). On the contrary soils must be moist but not waterlogged or stagnant (Evans 1984; Pryor 1988; Savill 1991; Joyce et al. 1998; Hemery et al. 2010; Ducci et al. 2013). Changing climatic regimes may alter site conditions shifting once ideal sites to marginal ones.


To date many models have been published within the scientific literature regarding cherries produced within cherry orchards, these include models that describe fruit characteristics such as fruit size, shape, fruit quality, hardness and sweetness both at harvest (Beyer et al., 2002; Muskovics et al., 2006; Shahbazi and Rahmati, 2013) and post-harvest regarding storage-ability (Bernalte et al., 2003). Models are available that provide yield predictions based on climatic and other external variables such as prediction of flowering time as a factor of the North Atlantic Oscillation (Gormsen et al., 2005), the relationship between frost events and bud damage (Miranda et al., 2005) and those that highlight extrogenous factors such as the importance of pollination by bees (Holzschuh et al., 2012). There is a distinct absence of cherry yield models within the current published literature for the fruiting capacity of P. avium in forest stands


The commercial production of fruit (cherries) occurs exclusively within orchard systems, there is no value to the timber. Tree form is concentrated on providing a suitable, economical platform for the greatest production of cherries. Production shifts from vigorous large trees to highly productive, simplified, uniform trees in high efficiency orchards. Cultivars are utilised in combination with grafted and often dwarfing rootstocks, as this has been proven to be an effective method of controlling tree vigour and other tree attributes.

Veneer production represents the main use of wild cherry timber. Production goals for such a product often stipulate branch free log lengths of 8m or more, with a mean mid underbark diameters greater than 40cm and with a Knotty core of less than 10cm in diameter. Such a butt log length can be achieved within 20 years after which the silvicultural operations focus on diameter growth. Timber volume of between 6 and 10 m3 ha-1yr-1 are attainable on most sites. Prunus avium accounts for 0.7% of annual removals within the EU, with the proportion of high value timber increasing with increasing demand.

P. avium is a tree species that do not self-prune well, shaded branches quickly die and can result in the formation of dead knots. Therefore, in order to obtain high quality butt logs, artificial pruning is necessar, Progressive thinning should be carried out, as P. avium responds strongly to timely release. Maintenance of canopy closure between 100% (full closure) and 70% provides the best conditions for maximal diameter growth.