Rooted in Research

Black Cherry: Evolution of a Species

Cover image for Research ReviewFor the last century black cherry (Prunus serotina) has comprised a significant portion of the tree canopy across the Allegheny National Forest. But black cherry's rise to prominence has a complicated history. Following unsustainable timber harvesting in the early 20th century, clearcut forests encouraged pioneer species such as black cherry to thrive. Industrialization later increased the amount of nitrate present in the air, and the new environmental conditions further enhanced the dominance of this nitrogen-demanding species. For years, the timber industry benefited from an abundance of the most in-demand tree species available. This changed in the early 2000s, when the establishment, growth, and survival of black cherry began to diminish. Northern Research Station (NRS) researchers and partners are studying what caused this dominant population to decrease and are also investigating possible methods to slow the species' decline.

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For more information contact

Andrea Brandon
Science Delivery Specialist
USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station

Key Management Considerations

  • To keep black cherry trees in the mix, managers can consider a targeted approach to fertilizing seedlings with nitrogen.
  • Fertilizer is expensive and is best used where there are cherry seedlings present that can benefit from the treatment.
  • Fertilization to release black cherry seedlings is most effective if applied when the overstory is about to be removed or has just been removed.

Last modified: 10/21/2022