Black cherry (Prunus serotina) wood is a rich reddish-brown color and is strong, hard, and close-grained – one of the most valued cabinet and furniture woods. The leaves, twigs, bark, and seeds produce a cyanogenic glycoside. If you break a twig, it will produce a very unpleasant, dirt-like smell.
The inner bark, where the glycoside is concentrated, was used historically in the Appalachians as a cough remedy, tonic, and sedative. However, in large doses, there is a theoretical risk of cyanide poisoning. Also, its wilted leaves pose a poisoning risk to livestock.
The fruit has been used to flavor rum and brandy (“cherry bounce”). Its pitted fruits are edible and can be eaten raw. The fruit used in wine and jelly. Black cherry fruits are important food for numerous forest species.
The Black Cherry’s flaky, often purplish, bark is very distinctive and easy to spot in the winter. The bark is sometimes found with gum oozing out.