Common Astringent Berries: Origins and Characteristics of Bird Cherry


The English name refers to the berries, which are astringent and bitter-sweet, seldom used in Western Europe (but commonly eaten in Russia and elsewhere), readily eaten by birds, which do not taste astringency as unpleasant. Some herbs also have astringent effects. It was used medicinally during the Middle Ages, and the bark, placed at the door, was supposed to ward off plague.
Another name is the Hagberry, and the fruit can be known as hags. It is also sold as an ornamental in North America as a May Day tree.

There are two varieties:

  • European Bird Cherry Prunus padus var. padus. Europe and western Asia.   
  • Asian Bird Cherry Prunus padus var. commutata. Eastern Asia.

In Botany

Bird Cherry, MayDay Tree, or mayday tree, Prunus Padus
The Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) is a species of cherry, native to northern Europe and northern Asia, growing even north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. It is the type species of the subgenus Padus with flowers in racemes, which are hermaphroditic and pollinated by bees and flies; it is a deciduous small tree or large shrub 8-16 m tall.

Bird cherry (Prunus padus)

An attrative tree of northern parts, so named because the birds love the bitter fruits so much
Latin name                        Prunus padus

Family name                      Rose

Latin family name              Rosaceae

What type of tree is it?      Deciduous Broadleaf

Average height                 7-10m

Preferred soil type or         Prefers limestone but will grow on poor soils.

Needs full sun to flower environmental conditions?   Tree lore and folklore        

In some parts of Yorkshire it is called ‘wild lilac’ because of the spikes of white flowers in spring.

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