A deciduous tree reaching 30 to 40 ft in height, with a trunk 11⁄2 ft in diameter; bark bitter, aromatic, reddish and shining on the young shoots. Leaves ovate, long-pointed, 3 to 41⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. wide, glabrous, bright green, finely toothed, the teeth much incurved and gland-tipped; stalk glabrous, 1⁄2 in. long, with one or two glands at the top. Flowers 1⁄2 in. across, white, produced four to ten together in umbellate clusters or short racemes, each flower on a slender glabrous stalk 3⁄4 in. long; petals round, downy outside at the base; calyx glabrous, with rounded lobes. Fruits round, 1⁄4 in. in diameter, red.
Native of N. America, where it is very widely spread; introduced to England in 1773. It flowers very freely in this country at the end of April and in May when the leaves are half-grown, and is very beautiful then. According to Sargent it is a short-lived tree, but plays an important part in the preservation and reproduction of N. American forests. Its abundant seed is freely distributed by birds, and the rapidly growing young trees give valuable shelter to the other trees longer-lived than they are, which ultimately suppress them. It might be planted in thin woodland, in places where our native P. avium thrives.
var. saximontana Rehd. – Of shrubby habit. Leaves more shortly pointed. Flowers fewer in each cluster. Rocky Mountains.