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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 9 | Rosaceae | Prunus

9. Prunus mahaleb Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 474. 1753.

Mahaleb or perfumed or St. Lucie cherry

Shrubs or trees, not suckering, 30–150 dm, not thorny. Twigs with terminal end buds, densely puberulent. Leaves deciduous; petiole 4–20 mm, glabrous or ± puberulent on adaxial surface, sometimes glandular distally, glands 1–2, ˂discoid˃; blade broadly ovate, oblong, or suborbiculate, 1.9–4.5 × 1.2–3.4 cm, base usually rounded to truncate, sometimes subcordate, margins crenate, teeth blunt, glandular, apex abruptly acuminate, ˂apicula obtuse˃, surfaces usually glabrous, sometimes midribs and veins hairy abaxially. Inflorescences 4–10-flowered, corymbs; central axes 8–40 mm. Pedicels 6–18 mm (subtended by leafy bracts), glabrous. Flowers blooming at leaf emergence; hypanthium conic-campanulate, 2–3 mm, glabrous externally; sepals reflexed, oblong, 1.3–2 mm, margins entire, surfaces glabrous; petals white, elliptic to obovate, 6–7 mm; ovaries glabrous. Drupes dark red to black, ovoid, 6–10 mm, glabrous; mesocarps leathery; stones ellipsoid to subglobose, ± flattened. 2n = 16.

Flowering Apr–May; fruiting Jun–Jul. Roadsides, stream banks, limestone bluffs and quarries, lowland thickets and woods, fencerows, chaparral; 0–2300 m; introduced; B.C., Ont.; Ala., Ark., Calif., Conn., Del., D.C., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Md., Mass., Mich., Mo., Mont., N.J., N.Mex., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Oreg., Pa., Tenn., Utah, Va., Wash., W.Va.; Eurasia.

Prunus mahaleb was introduced to North America as a rootstock for commercial cherries and is now sometimes cultivated for its attractive and fragrant flowers. At one time, the aromatic wood was a favorite for tobacco pipes.


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