Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula - avenue of Cherry Trees on the main path leading into the Gardens (340)

Other names - synonyms:

  • Prunus serrula var. tibetica
  • Prunus tibetica

Common names:

  • Tibetan Cherry
  • Birch-bark Tree

Location in the Gardens:

Season of interest:

  • Winter. The mahogany-coloured bark, although present throughout the year, adds particular colour to Highdown Gardens during the winter season.

Description of plant:

Prunus serrula is a round-headed bushy deciduous tree. The trunk has shiny coppery bark. The narrow leaves turn yellow in the autumn. The white flowers are 2cm in width, and bloom in small clusters.

The tree can grow to a height of 12 metres and width exceeding 8 metres over a period of 20-50 years.

Propagation is by budding or grafting, although softwood cuttings in early summer with bottom heat can be successful.

Prunus serrula may be affected by the diseases silver leaf, bacterial canker and blossom wilt, and by the pests caterpillars, leaf-mining moths and bullfinches.

Ideal growing conditions and habitat:

Full sun, any aspect or exposure.

Tolerates any moderately fertile chalk, sand, clay and loam soils that are well-drained or moist but well-drained, including acid, neutral and alkaline pH.

Frost-hardy to -20 degrees Centigrade.

A low maintenance plant, though may need pruning in mid-summer if the disease silver leaf is a problem.

Country of origin:

  • West China

Highdown history:

The Sterns originally planted an avenue of cherry trees in 1938 to give interest in the winter months. Since then new ones have been planted to replace older dying trees. Sir Frederick Stern, in his book, 'A Chalk Garden' (page 54), refers to Prunus serrula as:

“having small white flowers of no consequence, but a very pleasant and highly decorative mahogany-coloured bark which gives interest and colour in the winter.”

Other interesting information:

The Chinese believed that cherry wood kept away evil spirits, and so hung branches of cherry wood over their doors on New Year's Day and made cherry wood statues to guard their houses.

Photo: the avenue of Cherry Trees (Prunus serrula) on the main path leading into the Gardens

Prunus serrula - avenue of Cherry Trees on the main path leading into the Gardens (744)

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