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Prunus sargentii - Sargent’s cherry


Sargent’s cherry is a small to mid-sized tree usually of regular shape, which flowers early when other trees are just awakening to spring. In flower, it is the princess of any garden or park, totally smothered in large rose-red cherry blossom. The effect is emphasised by its brevity – flowering lasts only for about a week.

Sargent’s cherry comes into leaf after flowering, with beautiful coppery foliage soon changing to green and finally to orange-red autumn shades. In winter the white-streaked chestnut bark is highly attractive amid a snow-covered landscape.

This cherry grows naturally in Japan, Korea and the Russian Far East, for example on Sakhalin Island. As a mountain species it is noticeably hardier than the hybrid Japanese cherries so can be successfully grown in suitable sites as far north as central Finland. At Mustila there are specimens of several provenances which show slight differences in flowering times and habit.


Prunus pennsylvanica - bird, pin or red cherry


This is an extremely showy tree when it flowers like a white cloud at the end of May. In late summer the flowers develop into red, pea-sized berries with a hard stone seed, tasting bittersweet or acidic. The narrow pointed leaves take on very attractive red to orange autumn colour. The crown is narrow and airy, the branches usually erect, though in the variety ‘Bertta’ the crown is broader and the branches distinctly drooping.

The pin cherry was planted at Mustila in the 1930s near the stream on Etelärinne (Southern Slope). It was taken from there into nursery production in the 1970s. Nowadays it is commonly used as a garden and park tree throughout southern and central Finland. It has also spread into other parts of the Arboretum, for example Pähkinärinne (Hazelnut Slope) and the edges of Tammimetsä (Oak Forest). The trees spread both from root suckers and with the help of birds, which spread the seeds throughout the Arboretum. In its native North America the pin cherry is a fast-growing pioneer species, appearing quickly in clearings left by forest fires.


Prunus padus - bird cherry


Of the native flowering woody species the bird cherry has perhaps been blessed with the greatest abundance of blossom, and grows throughout the country. It is an intrinsic part of the Finnish landscape: among piles of stones cleared from fields, near wells and springs. If you close your eyes and imagine a Finnish landscape on a spring morning as coolness gives way to warmth, you can almost smell the scent of the flowering bird cherry. The tree is in full leaf before flowering begins, and the growth rate at its maximum, soon to be over.

The bird cherry suckers from its roots, and is characteristically bent into an arch by the snow, with vertical shoots growing in line from adventitious buds on the bow-shaped stems. Another of its strategies for spreading is that any branches in contact with the ground tend to root and produce new trees. Not to mention the way birds spread the seed to new sites.

The bird cherry has long clusters of small flowers, which later develop into black berries. Their bitter taste comes from the seed, which contains very small amounts of amygdalin, which also occurs in higher concentrations in the bark and the wood, which smell unpleasant. Outside the growing season, branches cut from the tree can be used to keep hares from eating the bark of other trees, such as apples.


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