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Cerasus mahaleb

Prunus mahaleb - mahaleb or St. Lucie cherry

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The Mahaleb cherry is native to Europe and the Near-East. It has long been in cultivation all over the world and much used in grafting, for example as root stock for the sour cherry, Prunus cerasus. Particularly in North America, it is used as hedging and its seeds have been spread into the wild by birds, which has also happened on the island of Stora Karlsö, in Sweden’s Gothland. The fruit is also used industrially, the skins smelling aromatically of coumarin.

The tree blossoms at the same time as the leaves open, in clusters of as many as ten white scented flowers on the previous season’s growth. Although the flowers are small there are so many of them, and the leaves so small, that they cover the tree like a white veil. Flowering is probably best when the tree grows in poorish soil in full light.

The cherry itself is somewhat bitter in taste, ripening to black in autumn. It is small, with little flesh around the stone seed, but the spicy aroma is rather special and pleasant. The small pointed leaves stay long on the tree, until the first hard frosts. The specimens at Mustila are of Russian origin, planted in 1996, and have shown excellent winter hardiness.

 

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