Monday, August 17, 2009
Neat, but Messy, Tree: The Cornelian Cherry
I recently encountered an interesting tree, the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas, a type of dogwood), at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia. I have not seen the tree in flower (apparently an early, yellow bloom), but in fruit it is stunning, almost startling. The fruit looks a little like a cherry, hence the name of the plant, but is more elongated (see photo). The fruit is edible, but astringent when unripe, and is only fully ripe after it falls from the tree (see that photo- it does make a mess! If you wanted to harvest this tree, you might need to use a tarp on the ground and gather daily). Some sources describe its flavor as between a cranberry and sour cherry and is used for making jam, sauces and is also used in dried form. The Cornelian cherry can be grown as a large shrub, or small tree, getting about 15 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide. It likes full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soils, but can adapt to poor, dry soil, soils of various pH, heat, and drought. It is just about pest-and disease-free, though is tempting to squirrels and birds. It is a little bit sensitive to being transplanted in the fall, so care should be taken in fall to prepare the planting hole, water adequately and protect from road salt sprays.
This will be my next tree to plant!