Prunus serotina Ehrh.
Family - Rosaceae
Stems - Tree to 30m tall with a diameter of +/-70cm. Bark silvery when young, becoming dark maroon to deep brown, scaly when young, fissured and blocky when mature. Branches reddish-brown. Twigs pungent when bruised or cut. New season's growth glabrous, green to reddish. Previous season's growth gray-brown with round to oval lenticels and black punctate dots.
Bark of young tree.
Leaves - Alternate, petiolate. Petioles to +/-1.5cm long, glabrous. Blades to +10cm long, +4cm broad, deep shiny-green above, light-green below, serrulate, elliptic to oblong-elliptic, acute to abruptly short-acuminate, typically glabrous or with a few floccose hairs in the axils of the veins abaxially, pungent when crushed.
Inflorescence - Terminal racemes on the new season's growth. Racemes to +10cm long, +/-2cm broad. Rachis glabrous to sparse pilose, green. Pedicels glabrous, 3-6mm long, green. Flowers +/-40 per inflorescence.
Flowers - Petals 5, white, spreading, clawed, 3-4mm long (total), borne at the rim of the hypanthium, distinct. The blade cupped, glabrous, orbicular, entire to slightly erose on the margins, +/-3mm broad. Claw 1mm long, glabrous. Stamens -20, of varying lengths, borne at the rim of the hypanthium, exserted. Filaments green-translucent, to 3mm long, glabrous. Anthers yellow, 1mm long, -1mm broad. Style 1. glabrous, green, +/-2mm long, thick. Stigma captiate. Ovary superior, green to purplish, ovoid, +1mm long, 1mm in diameter, glabrous internally and externally, unilocular, with 1 ovule. Hypanthium green, campanulate to cupulate, glabrous, 2-3mm long, +/-2mm in diameter. Sepals 5, small, +/-1mm long, .7mm broad at the base, narrow-triangular, often somewhat pectinate on the margins, erect, glabrous. Fruits globose, to 1cm in diameter, dark-red to purple-black, sweet to bitter in flavor.
Flowering - April - May.
Habitat - Low or upland woods, along streams, thickets, fence rows.
Origin - Native to U.S. and Canada.
Other info. - This species can be found throughout Missouri and is quite common. The plant can be identified by its deep green, serrulate leaves which have a pungent odor when crushed. The odor is caused by the glycoside prunasin, which (upon ingestion) converts to hydrocyanic acid. This acid make the leaves poisonous to any grazing animals.
Photographs taken off Hwy 82, Bullock County, AL., 3-18-06.