Spread the Wild with Summer Cherries

Learn to identify wild cherries, and even grow them in your own backyard.

Photo by Adobe Stock/Jeremy Francis

One July, when I was leading a small group of hikers to explore some remote sites deep in Angeles National Forest, we rested in the shade of a large hillside for a water break. After everyone had a drink from their canteens, I noticed that the tree we were resting under was full of red fruit.

“Hey,” I called to everyone, “look at all those fruits. Does anyone know what they are?” Everyone looked up with great interest, and one man picked a fruit off the tree and examined it.

“It kind of looks like a cherry, but not quite,” he replied.

“Yes,” I said with excitement. “It’s a native wild cherry.” I explained that the wild cherry isn’t the same as the cultivated commercial cherry, but it’s closely related.

“So, is this one edible?” the man queried. I popped the dark red fruit into my mouth, chewed it, and spit out the pit. Everyone laughed, and then began to taste the fruits. The cherries were ripe, sweet, and slightly darker in color than a farm-grown cherry.

John Outler
7/11/2019 7:06:00 AM

You mention that "the Prunus genus ... includes all wild and domestic cherries...", but I don't see a specific species reference to the fruit you were eating. It's worth noting that the fruit of P. serotina, while tiny and usually out of reach, are also edible. If you're lucky enough to have access to a prone trunk or branch and get to the fruit before the critters do, they satisfy in much the same way as you describe other wild cherries.

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