Prunus emarginata (Douglas ex Hook.) Eaton
Collected near Kamiah in Idaho Co., Idaho, on 29 May 1806.
Bitter cherry is a native, deciduous, small tree or shrub with spreading to ascending branches. It often forms dense thickets. It generally persists as a medium to tall shrub, 3.3 to 20 feet in height. With abundant moisture and deep fertile soil, bitter cherry may reach tree height: up to 50 feet in some areas. The leaves are 0.8 to 2 inches long and 0.4 to 1.4 inches wide. The drupe-like, ovoid fruit is 0.24 to 0.56 inch in diameter and is one-seeded. Roots may spread up to 50 feet from the parent plant, sending up adventitious shoots along their length. Bitter cherry has no taproot. Longevity of bitter cherry has not been fully determined, but it is relatively short-lived (30-40 years). The Bitter cherry flowers in Idaho early May.
Bitter cherry is most often found in cool, moist foothill, montane, or canyon habitats throughout its range. It grows best on moist soils with good drainage, but also grows in semi-shaded areas and on dry, exposed hillsides. Bitter cherry grows best on loam and sandy loam soils but occurs on gravelly substrates as well. In Idaho it grows at elevations of 3,530-8,150 feet. It is found mainly west of the Continental Divide.
The bitter cherry is a generally shade intolerant species of sparse woods, riparian sites, and open areas where there is often evidence of past disturbance.
Food Uses The fruits may be eaten although their taste is bitter. They are best used with lots of sugar in jams.
Other Uses The bark has been used for weaving decorative baskets. They also softened it by pounding to make twine for also for baskets, mats, or for tying together joints in house-building.
Uses for Animals:
Bitter cherry is a valuable forage species for mule deer, elk, and black bear. Throughout its range, bitter cherry fruits are eaten by birds, rodents, and small mammals.
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