The bird cherry is distributed throughout most of Europe, extending northward as far as central Sweden and eastward to the Yenisei River. It grows mainly in moist situations alongside lakes and ponds and on alluvial deposits; alongside streams, it may be found at elevations over 1000 metres. The bird cherry is a small tree 5 to 15 metres high, with a broad crown and pendent branches. The bark is grey-black, thin, and covered with small warts. When peeled from the twig it gives off an unpleasant scent reminiscent of bitter almonds — a characteristic of this species. The fragrant white flowers in pendent racemes open in May. They are succeeded in July by black, astringent drupes which are eaten by birds.
The bird cherry requires partial shade, and often forms the lower stratum of damp woods. It requires comparatively rich and moist soil to grow really well. The wood is of good quality but of little importance because of the tree’s small size.
Cultivated locally for its wood in European forests and as an ornamental in parks is the North American black cherry (Prunus serotina her.), which grows to a height of 25 metres and has scaly bark. It is more tolerant of soil and climatic conditions.
Leaves: Alternate, lustrous green, elliptic or obovate and slender pointed, 6—12 cm long, with fine, sharply serrate margins and stalks with 1 to 2 glands. Fruit: Ovoid black drupe, 6—8 mm long, borne in loose racemes; with furrowed stone.