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Consider Amur Cherry or Amur Chokecherry

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Amur cherry or amur chokecherry (Prunus maackii) is a tough but attractive small tree. Although it is capable of growing to over 50 feet tall, it normally doesn't get more than 30 feet tall in cultivation.

One of the most distinctive ornamental features of this deciduous tree is the beautiful cinnamon-brown exfoliating bark. Most prominent in winter, when the leaves have fallen from the branches, the bark has almost a bronze metallic sheen along with light-colored horizontal dashes and rings left by the papery, peeling layers. In late spring small, fragrant, creamy- white flowers arranged in drooping, 2-3" racemes cover the leafed-out tree. These are followed in mid- to late summer by small, long-lasting black fruit that are attractive to birds or can be used to make jams and jellies. The medium-green leaves turn a non-descript yellowish color in autumn and often drop early.

Plant amur cherry in full sun or partial shade. It does best in moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter. But it is also moderately salt tolerant and can withstand some neglect and abuse. This tree has a moderate growth rate and can be grown as a single or multi-trunked tree. It has a pyramidal shape when young that becomes rounded with age. Pruning out the lower branches allows the attractive bark to be more visible when in leaf.

Amur cherry tends to have fewer problems than many Prunus species and is longer lived (30-50 years). It is somewhat prone to black knot, a fungal disease that produces grotesque blackish swellings on branches, but otherwise has few pest problems. Other common cherry pests include borers, scale, aphids, tent caterpillars, canker and leaf spot.

Use P. maackii as a specimen tree in areas where it can be appreciated for the bark and silhouette in winter. It is ideal for the small yard because of its smaller size. This plant has been underused, and is not commonly available in many nurseries. At least one cultivar, Goldrush (P. maackii 'Jefree') is offered. Developed from an open pollinated seedling, this improved selection has improved resistance to frost cracking and appears to be resistant to black knot.

This resource was added May 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement


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