Prunus cerasus - L.
Sour Red Cherry
Other English Common Names: Morello Cherry, Pie Cherry, Sour Cherry, Tart Cherry
Other Common Names: sour cherry
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Prunus cerasus L. (TSN 24773)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.159252
Element Code: PDROS1C0A0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Rose Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Rosales Rosaceae Prunus
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Prunus cerasus
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (01Apr2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Arkansas (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA)
Canada British Columbia (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ARexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, GA, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MOexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WVexotic
Canada BCexotic, NBexotic, NSexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium/Insignificant
Rounded I-Rank: Unknown
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Prunus cerasus, sour cherry, is one of the main cherry species that is cultivated for commercial use in many areas throughout the country. This Prunus species has escaped from cultivation in nearly all states in the Northeast, and is present south to Virginia and west to Kansas. It is known from several states in the West, too. The ecological impacts of this species are unknown; however, it does appear to persist in some native species habitats, including prairies and old-growth forest. This species' fruit is a favorite among robins, and these birds surely disperse its seeds long distances, at least sometimes.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Insignificant
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium/Low
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Unknown
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Unknown
I-Rank Review Date: 14May2004
Evaluator: Oliver, L.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: This species is native to Eurasia (GRIN).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
Provide feedback on the information presented in this assessment

Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: Prunus cerasus has escaped from cultivation throughout the eastern United States, however, is scattered south of Virginia, and west to Utah and Washington (Kartesz 1999). Specifically, it occurs from Maine south to Virginia and west to Kansas, but also in North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico, Utah, Montana and Washington (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: While occurring in mostly disturbed places, it has also invaded old growth forest remnant in Illinois (Basinger 2002). Steyermark 1960 mentions that this species has escaped to prairies too.

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Insignificant

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: No mention of alterations in ecosystem wide processes found in literature, suggesting that any ecosystem changes are minor and reversable.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Since this species is a small tree (Welsh et al. 1993), it affects at least one vegetative layer.

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Medium significance/Insignificant
Comments: Prunus cerasus, the tart cherry grown in commercial trade, is locally well established in Michigan (Voss 1985), probably because Michigan produces more than half of the nation's crop of cherries (Voss 1985). In Illinois, it has been reported as occasional (on a continuum from abundant, frequent, occasional, infrequent and rare) in a remnant old growth forest in Jackson County (Basinger 2002). Welsh et al. (1993) does not discuss specifically about this species outside of cultivation, however, they mention that the site of production shifting from cities to areas like the West Mountain, Utah County. This species is scattered in Missouri where it is reported to have invaded prairies (Steyermark 1960).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Unknown

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Unknown

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium/Low

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: This species escaped from cultivation in more than one third of the United States. It is found in nearly every state in the northeast, and south to Virginia, and then west to Kansas. It is scattered in the midwest and west (Kartesz 1999). This species is grown commercially in many states in the US for its fruit, the sour cherry.

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Little information is available about this species' invasiveness, however, if it were highly invasive one would suspect that more information would be available. It is on the Washington Native Plant Society's invasive plant list as a species of lesser invasiveness (WNPS). In New York metropolitan area this species is rare and non-invasive (Clemants 2004). In an Illinois study, this species was not included in the list of woody non-native species dominanting the understory (Basinger 2002). Apparently, present, but not a dominant member of either the sapling layer or canopy (Basinger 2002).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is present throughout the northeast and south to Virginia, and occurs west to Kansas and scattered in the west (Kartesz 1999). It occurs in at least 14 ecoregions (TNC 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Low significance
Comments: This species has been noted to occur in priaries (Steyermark 1960) and old growth forest (Basinger 2002).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Unknown

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Unknown

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Since this species already occupies more than 1/3 of the country (Kartesz 1999), 10-30% of its range is already occupied.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High/Low significance
Comments: The fruit of Prunus cerasus, sour cherry, is a favorite of robins (Welsh et al. 1993), so long distance dispersal happens at least occasionally.

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Unknown

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Prunus cerasus is a shade tolerant species, which is uncommon in fruit trees (Steyermark 1960). Most of the places where this species has invaded are disturbed, including roadsides, fencerows, borders along woods, and thickets (Voss 1985, Steyermark 1960). This species also persists for a long time (Welsh et al. 1993), suggesting that it has a long time to reproduce and remain viable in an area. It has already invades prairies (Steyermark 1960) and old growth forests (Basinger 2002).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Unknown

16. Reproductive Characteristics:Low significance
Comments: This species suckers readily from its roots (Voss 1985) and also persists for along time (Welsh et al. 1993) meaning that it can reproduce for many years.

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Unknown

17. General Management Difficulty:Unknown

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Unknown

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Unknown

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Unknown

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Basinger, M. 2002. Vascular flora of Thompson Woods, Jackson County, Illinois. Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science. 95(1): 21-36.

  • Clemants, S. 2004. Prunus cerasus L. New York Metropolitan Flora Project. Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Online.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Little, E.L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agriculture Handbook No. 541. U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C. 375 pp.

  • Steyermark, J.A. 1963. Flora of Missouri. Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames. 1728 pp.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. 2001. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN). [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.URL: (Accessed 2004)

  • Voss, E.G. 1985. Michigan flora. Part II. Dicotyledons. Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor, Michigan. 1212 pp.

  • Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS). 1997. Preliminary List of Exotic Pest Plants of Greatest Ecological Concern in Oregon and Washington. ONLINE. Accessed 2004, January.

  • Welsh, S.L., N.D. Atwood, S. Goodrich, and L.C. Higgins (eds.) 1993. A Utah flora. 2nd edition. Brigham Young Univ., Provo, Utah. 986 pp.

Use Guidelines & Citation

Use Guidelines and Citation

The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines, Restrictions on Use, and Information Disclaimer.

Note: All species and ecological community data presented in NatureServe Explorer at were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of November 2016.
Note: This report was printed on

Trademark Notice: "NatureServe", NatureServe Explorer, The NatureServe logo, and all other names of NatureServe programs referenced herein are trademarks of NatureServe. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Copyright Notice: Copyright © 2017 NatureServe, 4600 N. Fairfax Dr., 7th Floor, Arlington Virginia 22203, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved. Each document delivered from this server or web site may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information relating to that document. The following citation should be used in any published materials which reference the web site.

Citation for data on website including State Distribution, Watershed, and Reptile Range maps:
NatureServe. 2017. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed:

Citation for Bird Range Maps of North America:
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Bird Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:

Restrictions on Use: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this server is hereby granted under the following conditions:
  1. The above copyright notice must appear in all copies;
  2. Any use of the documents available from this server must be for informational purposes only and in no instance for commercial purposes;
  3. Some data may be downloaded to files and altered in format for analytical purposes, however the data should still be referenced using the citation above;
  4. No graphics available from this server can be used, copied or distributed separate from the accompanying text. Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved by NatureServe. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise any license or right under any trademark of NatureServe. No trademark owned by NatureServe may be used in advertising or promotion pertaining to the distribution of documents delivered from this server without specific advance permission from NatureServe. Except as expressly provided above, nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or right under any NatureServe copyright.
Information Warranty Disclaimer: All documents and related graphics provided by this server and any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server are provided "as is" without warranty as to the currentness, completeness, or accuracy of any specific data. NatureServe hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to any documents provided by this server or any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, including but not limited to all implied warranties and conditions of merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. NatureServe makes no representations about the suitability of the information delivered from this server or any other documents that are referenced to or linked to this server. In no event shall NatureServe be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, consequential damages, or for damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information contained in any documents provided by this server or in any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, under any theory of liability used. NatureServe may update or make changes to the documents provided by this server at any time without notice; however, NatureServe makes no commitment to update the information contained herein. Since the data in the central databases are continually being updated, it is advisable to refresh data retrieved at least once a year after its receipt. The data provided is for planning, assessment, and informational purposes. Site specific projects or activities should be reviewed for potential environmental impacts with appropriate regulatory agencies. If ground-disturbing activities are proposed on a site, the appropriate state natural heritage program(s) or conservation data center can be contacted for a site-specific review of the project area (see Visit Local Programs).

Feedback Request: NatureServe encourages users to let us know of any errors or significant omissions that you find in the data through (see Contact Us). Your comments will be very valuable in improving the overall quality of our databases for the benefit of all users.