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Prunus mahaleb L.

Saint Lucie Cherry

Modern name

Prunus mahaleb L.


Cerasus mahaleb (L.) Mill.

A free-growing, deciduous tree up to 30 or 40 ft high in gardens, with a loose, spreading head of branches; young twigs downy. Leaves broadly ovate or roundish, with a short, abrupt, often blunt apex, the base rounded or slightly heart-shaped, shallowly toothed, 1 to 212 in. long, 34 to 2 in. wide, almost or quite glabrous above, more or less hairy on each side of the midrib beneath, glossy green; stalk 12 in. long, with a pair of glands. Racemes 114 to 2 in. long, carrying six to ten flowers, which are pure white, 12 to 34 in. across, very fragrant, each on a stalk about 12 in. long. The racemes spring from the wood of the previous year, and are furnished towards the base with small leaf-like bracts. Fruits about 14 in. long, somewhat egg-shaped, black.

Native of Central and S. Europe; in cultivation 1714. It flowers in the last week of April and early May, and is then one of the most beautiful of flowering trees, filling the air with fragrance for yards around. It is fast-growing, and if planted in very rich soil is apt to become rank and ungainly. In the sandy soil of Kew it thrives and blossoms remarkably well. Both the species and its varieties may be increased by cuttings made of moderately firm young wood, and placed in gentle bottom heat, also by layers. The type, raised from seed, has been used as a stock for grafting cherries on.

cv. ‘Bommii’. – A variety of pendulous habit, much more marked than in ‘Pendula’ itself.

cv. ‘Globosa’. – A dwarf, bushy variety of rounded habit and slow growth, distributed by Dieck’s nursery. The P. mahaleb compacta of Späth’s nursery was the same. Both these were placed by Rehder under P. mahaleb f. monstrosa (Kirchn.) Schneid., but the plant Kirchner described as Cerasus mahaleb monstrosa had very short and thick branches and branchlets. It is doubtful if it was clonally the same as ‘Globosa’.

cv. ‘Pendula’. – A very beautiful tree, more graceful than the type, yet not strikingly pendulous. Raised by Lesuer’s nursery, Rouen, in 1847 (Rev. Hort., 1853, pp. 479_80). It received an F.C.C. when shown by Paul’s nursery in 1874.

f. xanthocarpa (Roem.) Rehd. P. m. var. chrysocarpa Nichols. – Fruits yellow.

Coloured forms have been in cultivation, notably ‘Albomarginata’, which is a better tree of its class than most variegated forms of this genus, the leaves having a broad, unequal margin of yellowish white. There was also one with leaves more or less yellow (‘Aurea’).



Other species in the genus