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Pin cherry

Spring flowers of pin cherry.

Pin cherry is a fast-growing, small, slender tree reaching 30 feet tall with a narrow crown, often forming dense colonies.  This short-lived tree is often found growing in sunny, dry soils and one of the first trees to appear after fires. Attractive, reddish brown bark is marked with horizontal bands of orange-colored lenticels. Difficult to find in nursery trade. Native to Midwest.  "This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."  

Botanical name:

Prunus pensylvanica

All common names:

Pin cherry, Bird cherry, Wild red cherry, Fire cherry

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • medium tree (25-40 feet),
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago)

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Sandy soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • mid spring,
  • late summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Columnar,
  • Narrow,
  • Thicket-forming

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

Size & Form

A small, narrow tree 25 to 30 feet high and 18 to 25 feet wide or shrub with horizontal branches.

Tree & Plant Care

Generally not recommended because it is a short-lived tree.  
Grows best in cool climates in full sun and well drained sandy soils.
One of first trees to invade recently disturbed sites forming  dense thickets.

Disease, pests, and problems

Susceptible to fireblight, canker, and borer.

Disease, pests, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Native to upper Midwest in dry open fields and  wood edge clearings

Bark color and texture 

Young bark is shiny reddish-bronze color.
Mature bark develops dark red horizontal lenicels.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, simple, finely serrated margins on 3 to 5 inch and 1 to 1/2 inch wide green leaves.
Fall color is yellow to red.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Clusters of 1/2 inch wide fragrant, white flowers.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A small, 1/4 inch bright red shiny fleshy berry (drupe).


Location of Prunus pensylvanica (Pin cherry) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.