Table of Contents
- Edible Uses of Fire Cherry
- Medicinal Uses of Fire Cherry
- Alternative Uses of Bird Cherry
- Growing Prunus Pensylvanica
We’ve covered almost every native cherry in Ontario and this fire cherry, also called bird cherry for one, is no exception to the fact prunus spp. are fantastic for birds and other wildlife. And not just jam!
Pin cherry / Fire cherry (prunus pensylvanica) was common along roadsides, woodland slopes, lake banks, and stream banks in our area. I like the “fire” name because it refers to the fact it tends to colonize a space after a fire, like fireweed. The seeds can lie dormant in the soil for decades, maybe up to 100 years. It’s an “early succession species” that will eventually be overcome with forest in most cases. This is why I wrote “was common”. When Haliburton Flora was put together it was common, but we tend to keep fires at bay and even more of our woods have grown in. You’ll still mostly find it on banks, but I’ve only seen a couple plants so I’m guessing it’s probably now somewhere between uncommon to fairly common.
Edible Uses of Fire Cherry
Pin cherry could end up being the next superfood berry – there is some interest anyway. The fruit of course is edible and can be used in jams et al if you are willing to put in the work to strain away the pits without breaking the seeds – broken seeds will add bitterness. The sour red berries ripen a few weeks before chokecherries and black cherries do, and shortly after low bush blueberries.
For ambitious bakers, it’s wonderful mixed with other fruits in pies, fruit juices or leathers.
Medicinal Uses of Fire Cherry
Fire Cherry is primarily said to support these body systems:
Medicinal tags include Astringent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.
Common usage includes the astringent inner bark for eye and mouthwashes and other typical astringent uses. Pin/fire cherry is one of the least if not the least used of our prunus spp. medicinally. See the others we’ve covered here, along with other plants from the same Rose family.
Alternative Uses of Bird Cherry
Pin cherry isn’t overflowing with craft uses but do you like birds? Cherries are 1/4 of the fall diet of cedar waxwings; it’s their preferred food! Rose breasted grosbeaks prefer it too. Lots of wild ones favour it. Having many prunus species on your property is a surefire way to attract more birds! As this one ripens first you can broaden your cherry season by planting a whole thicket of it.
Growing Prunus Pensylvanica
Many cherries (prunus SPP.) are available at Ontario’s native plant shops, including prunus pensylvanica! If so inclined, you can collect every native prunus! A great project for birdwatchers especially. Here are five native cherries to look for with links to ones we’ve written about:
- Chokecherry (prunus virginiana)
- Black cherry (prunus serotina)
- Fire cherry (prunus pensylvanica)
- Canada plum (prunus nigra)
- Sand cherry (prunus pumila)
And the Usual Cautions:
1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.
2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.
3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.
4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.
5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.
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The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada