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Bitter Cherry
Prunus emarginata
About Bitter Cherry (Prunus emarginata) Nurseries Show All Photos Oregon cherry or Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) is a species of Prunus native to western North America, from British Columbia south to California, and east to western Wyoming and Arizona. It is often found in recently disturbed areas, open woods, on nutrient-rich soil. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 1-15 meter tall with a slender oval trunk with smooth gray to reddish-brown bark with horizontal lenticels. The leaves are 2-8 centimeter long, thin, oval-shaped, and yellowish-green with unevenly-sized teeth on either side. The flowers are small, 10-15 millimeter diameter, with five white petals and numerous hairlike stamens; they are almond-scented, and produced in clusters in spring, and are pollinated by insects. The fruit is a juicy red or purple cherry 7-14 millimeter diameter, which, as the plant's English name suggests, are bitter. As well as reproducing by seed, it also sends out underground stems which then sprout above the surface to create a thicket.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Tree, Shrub

Max. Height
3.3 - 80 ft (1 - 24.4 m)


Growth Rate

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
White, Yellow, Green

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Rocky slopes

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
13' - 14040'

Annual Precip. ?
5.4" - 153.3"

Summer Precip. ?
0.15" - 5.94"

Coldest Month ?
8.4° F - 52.6° F

Hottest Month ?
32.1° F - 77.5° F

Humidity ?
0.26 vpd - 27.29 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates clay but does best in moist loamy soil

Medium, Slow

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2*, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Soak in water at room temperature for 8 days, and stratif y at 45°F for 5 mos. Fresh seeds give better results (Sorrell 1981).

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hedges, Bird Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Rarely Available

Other Names
Common Names

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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