Prunus avium

Prunus avium

The cherry tree, also called wild cherry or bird cherry (Prunus avium (L.) L., 1755) is an arboreal species of the Rosaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, Kingdom Plantae, Subarign Tracheobionta, Superdivisione Spermatophyta, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Sottoclasse Rosidae, Rosales Order, Family Rosaceae, Subfamily Amygdaloideae, Amygdaleae Tribe and then to the Genus Prunus, Subgenus Cerasus and Species P avium.

Etymology –
We find the term prunus in Pliny, Latinization of the Greek προῦμνη proúmne susino, pruno and in Theophrastus and Dioscorides, probably derived from a pre-Greek language of Asia Minor; see also prunum plum, plum from the Greek προῦνον proúnon in Galen. The specific epithet comes from the Latin and is the genitive plural of avis bird: birds, which are greedy of the fruits of these plants.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Prunus avium is present in Europe, northwest of Africa, and west in Asia, from the British Isles to the south to Morocco and Tunisia (in the colder areas of the Atlas Mountains), to the north to Trondheimsfjord (Norway) and in Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, in the Caucasus, north of Iran and with a small population in the west of the Himalayas. It is a forest species that is not abundant and is not suitable as a pioneer species. It is a heliophilous species, rustic, plastic that also adapts to carbonate soils and very resistant to low temperatures; we can find it sporadic or in small groups in the oak woods in Roverella and Cerro and in the Orno-Ostrieti, both in the center and in the south, in the clearings that colonize very easily, in the mixed deciduous forest at the edge of beech woods even with white fir, but above all with Maple mountain, mountain elm, oak.

Description –
Prunus avium is one of the noble hardwoods of our woods. It is a medium-sized (or second-largest) tree, deciduous and rapidly growing; it has a slender trunk with a pyramidal crown when young, rather sparse then, with the most rounded age; in the woods it reaches 20-25 and can even reach 30 m. the maximum age is 100-150 years. It is a very polloniferous species and if ceded back vigorously forming small patches of seedlings derived from root suckers, it has a monopodial growth throughout life.
The bark of the wild cherry tree is smooth reddish and gray when young with horizontal bands with many elongated lenticels also horizontal; then with age it becomes dark red-brown with large elongated lentelle and horizontally flattened, it forms a thymid little thick that detaches itself in strips and ring plates.
The branches are hairless, gray and then reddish. Young plants only form elongation branches (macroblasts); then the brachiblasti formation begins (short and squaty twigs that bring close buds, of which the central is a flower bud; the woody stones (those of accretion) are oval, acute, while the flowering ones are globose, pluriperulate, glabrous .
The leaves on the growth twigs are spiral, alternate, simple, penninervie, 5-15 cm long, with a narrow margin and with the secondary ribs that come together before reaching the margin; they are dark green and glabrous on the upper page and lighter and initially slightly pubescent in the lower one. In autumn, depending on the season, they take very ornamental colors from golden yellow to deep red.
The flowers, which are gathered in umbrellas, are hermaphrodite, long pedunculated, with green and glabrous calyx, composed of 5 backward bending corals and corolla formed of 5 white petals smorgined at the apex, 15-25 stamens long as the petals and yellow anthers; the ovary and the stylus are hairless. Wild cherry blossoms normally from April to May and pollination is entomophilous (insects). Wild cherry is a self-incompatible species and consequently needs, to fructify, pollen from other plants of the same species. The fruits are round drupes of about 1 cm, with epicarp which when ripe is sweet juicy, edible and dark red in color; these are very sought after both by birds and mammals.

Cultivation –
Wild cherry is one of the species that has given rise to the sweet cherry that is a species cultivated and widespread in most of the globe, in its many varieties. For the cultivation technique you can consult the following form.

Uses and Traditions –
For many people, wild cherry has been a source of nourishment since ancient times.
In various parts of Europe, nòccioli were found in archeological deposits from the Bronze Age, including Britannia. Already in the ninth century BC the cherries were grown in Turkey and a little later in Greece. In Italy it is present from north to south and together with Prunus cerasus it is one of the two species of wild cherry that are the origin of the cultivated cherry varieties.
Pliny the Elder makes a distinction between Prunus, the tree, and Cerasus, the cherry tree. Pliny had already described a number of cultivations and some species mentioned, Aproniana, Lutatia, Caeciliana, etc. but it distinguishes them for its sweet to sour taste. Pliny states that before the Roman consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus defeated Mithridates in 74 B.C. “Cerasia […] did not exist in Italy”, ie there were no cherries in Italy. He believed that it was Lucullus who introduced the plant from Pontus, then spread over the next 120 years through Europe to Britain. However seeds of a number of species of cherries have been found in archaeological sites from the Bronze Age and in Roman archaeological sites throughout Europe. However the origin of Prunus avium is still controversial.
The wild cherry, as well as for the feeding of the first peoples has been evaluated over time for its precious wood. Its wood is in fact semi-porous, discolored with whitish sapwood and duramen of pinkish-yellowish-brownish color, with a fine texture, easily polished and finished. This wood, due to its characteristics, is much sought after for furniture and cabinet making but also musical instruments and inlay.
The cherry tree is, moreover, an excellent mellifera plant, but in order to have a good production of mono-varietal honey it is necessary to be in areas where the wild cherry or the cultivated cherry tree is abundant. Furthermore, the resin is aromatic and is used as an aroma for chewing gums and the juice of the fruit pedicels has astringent, anti-toxic and diuretic properties.

Preparation Mode –
Wild cherries are widely used in human food, both as fresh fruit and for the preparation of syrups, jams, fruit in alcohol and for the seasoning of sweets and ice creams.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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