What is this tree, blooming now?

Bellingham(z8 WA)March 26, 2011

I would appreciate some help trying to identify a tree. We bought a home last year, and the forested land is full of this tree (avg.15-40 ft), which bloomed early spring last year also. This is damp forest (wetland in places), mostly alder/birch/maple, bordering (and in) a seasonal stream. The white blossoms look a little like bitter cherry, and a little like crabapple, but there are no leaves on the plant. The bark is fairly smooth, and pale, greenish, brownish grey, so...not like cherry...and not really like apple.

So, I've looked at lots of books, but I can't find anything that would bloom now, white flowers, before leafing out.

Any guesses?

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Amelanchier alnifolia?--Blossoms appear in early spring before leafbreak. but not usually 40 feet tall!

that tall would be Prunus emarginata, no?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 2:38AM
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It probably is the cherry plum, Prunus cerasifera. I see them blooming now where I live. They have become weedy and are found in disturbed sites. Another exotic cherry, the sweet cherry, starts blooming around the first of April and is found blooming in both disturbed sites and wooded areas.

Our native cherry Prunus emarginata doesn't start blooming until late April.

Where I work we have both the eastern and western serviceberry. The eastern, depending on weather, starts blooming early April, the western in late April.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 9:31AM
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The other shrubby plant blooming now is Indian plum, Oemleria cerasiformis. It is one of the earliest of the natives to bloom with the flowers (looking a lot like cherry blossoms.....in the same family, Rosaceae) appearing just before the plant leafs out. It is usually a shrubby plant but can take on tree-like size and growth habits. They are popping out in bloom everywhere where I live.

It's pretty easy to ID this shrub - a leaf pulled from the tree and torn or crushed will have a distinctly cucumber-like aroma.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:02AM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

I was thinking Indian Plum too, quite common around here.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:14AM
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Bellingham(z8 WA)

After Plantknitter mentioned Serviceberry, I took another look at the books and websites. I'd already looked at SB, but dismissed because all the pictures showed leaves with blossoms, and the height issue. But after looking again, I think they are indeed Serviceberry, as some descriptions say leaves aren't out when bloom happens, and some of the tree habit pictures look exactly like it. Funny that I don't recall any berries last year. But I'll keep my eye out this year.

Thanks very much for the help. Maybe I'll dig out the camera tomorrow and see if I can post a picture or two.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:37PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

It is too early for Amelanchier alnifolia to be in bloom.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 4:35PM
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Bellingham(z8 WA)

Yeah, I had another look today, and the leaves have emerged, so now I'm thinking Prunus emarginata. It's always looked cherry-like to me.

I've uploaded some pictures. Sorry the quality isn't great. I just used my phone.

Here is a link that might be useful: tree pictures

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 11:01PM
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That tree is definitely a member of the rose family. It is way to early for P. emarginata. I live further south than you and my P. emarginata haven't put out either leaves or flowers. Besides emarginata has a more copper colored bark and different shape and size of flowers than the one you showed.

It probably is Prunus cerasifera, cherry plum, which is blooming right now.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 10:05AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Cherry plum was the prime candidate from the start, and that's what it turned out to be. None of the native rose family woody plants have the same combination of white, up-facing flowers borne in March or earlier on bare branches.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 11:00AM
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Bellingham(z8 WA)

Ah, ok. I was confused by the cherry plum suggestion earlier, because when I searched "Prunus cerasifera," I got images of purple leafed plum, so I discarded that because the leaves aren't purple, and the flowers aren't pink-tinged. But now I have searched again, and I see there are many varieties.

Driving to town today, I see these are everywhere along Mt Baker Highway corridor.

Thanks for the help solving this mystery.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 1:07AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Cherry plum produces white flowers and green leaves. The pink- and/or purple-parted ones are variants of it, or hybrids with other plums (commonly planted 'Newport', for instance, is a fairly complex hybrid).

When trying to name plants do more than just look at internet pictures, also read descriptive commentary. This happens rather often, the right plant is named in response to an internet query, only to be mistakenly rejected because of the original poster looking at some pictures that seem to show something different.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 5:31PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

I read thru this rather quickly, but didn't notice any mention of thorns...do the cherry plums have thorns on the branches that measure around 1" and longer? I have a young "tree" that volunteered between my 2 mature fir trees and it has bloomed for at least 3 years. It sounds like the cherry plum, but has rather major thorns.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 3:26PM
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Bellingham(z8 WA)

Still working on this. New twist. It appears there are two different trees. Both have similar bark, and the habit is similar. Some of these trees are approaching 50 feet. They appear to be growing easily from seeds, as there are numerous saplings near the older trees (not suckers, but saplings). Trunk diameters range from 3/8 inch to about 16 inches. The black fruit trees have a shorter, more oval shaped compound serrated leaf (I mean to say, two different sized serrations). The yellow/red fruited tree has more lancet shaped leaves, also with compound serrations. Both trees show distinct darkened glands on the petiole (sorry, not very visible in pictures. Speaking of pictures, there are more pictures posted at the link I posted earlier in the thread, showing the things I'm now describing. The black fruit tastes slightly sweet, but bitter. I would not describe it as sour or acidic. The yellow and red fruit tastes almost exactly like a Rainier cherry, but with a slightly bitter after-taste. Both fruits are about 1/2 inch in diameter. I haven't seen a cherry plum in person, but have seen many cherries, and these look like cherries to me. They are not elongated or oblong or round, but, rather, slightly indented on the bottom, just like a cherry.

So, the reason I'm posting again is that Prunus cerasifera is supposed to have petioles without glands and evenly toothed leaf margins.



Here is a link that might be useful: link to fruit pictures

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 2:17AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The other kind is Prunus avium.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 2:08PM
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Bellingham(z8 WA)

Thank you bboy. I'm in the planning process of eliminating some noxious weeds from my wetlands, and I want to do my best to identify what is there, so I can work carefully.

So, at this point, it looks to me that the yellow/red fruit is a Prunus avium. While I described the leaves as more "lancet" I found a description that calls them oval to obovate.

I'm still not completely convinced of the Prunus cerasifera identification for the other trees, however. The taste of the fruit is described as "nice, sweet flavor" in one description I read, and others make no mention of bitterness. Also, the fruit is usually described as larger than the fruit I have (some descriptions say the size of a small plum, some say 1 1/2" inch diameter). The fruit I have is a scant 1/2".

Could they be Prunus cerasus?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:20PM
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