Prunus serotina salicifolia
The taxonomic history of Prunus is long and complicated, in part due to the economic value of its fruit crops and also the ease with which some species hybridize. Here, Prunus is circumscribed in its broad sense based on the argument that when viewed on a worldwide scale, the morphologic discontinuities among the segregate genera diminish and they overlap with one another. Included here are species that have at times been placed in the genera Amygdalus, Armeniaca, Cerasus, Laurocerasus, Padus, and Persica.
At the species level, Prunus has been the object of the usual combining and splitting common among taxonomists with different philosophies and opinions. In particular, over-reliance on the indument of various vegetative and floral parts has led to the naming of numerous species and infraspecific taxa. Similarly, too much has been made of fruit colour and palatability in naming taxa of Prunus. It is very likely that, as molecular and genetic data are analyzed and, more importantly, correlated with morphological data, circumscriptions will be redrawn and the number of Prunus species will be reduced[
Cerasus capollin DC. ex Ser.
Cerasus capuli (Cav. ex Spreng.) Ser.
Cerasus longifolius Nutt. ex Torr. & A.Gray
Cerasus salicifolia (Kunth) Ser.
Laurocerasus salicifolia (Kunth) M.Roem.
Padus capollin (DC. ex Ser.) C.K.Schneid.
Padus capuli (Cav. ex Spreng.) Moldenke
Padus capulinos Hamelin
Padus salicifolia (Kunth) C.K.Schneid.
Prunus capollin (Cav. ex Spreng.) Zucc.
Prunus capuli Cav.
Prunus salicifolia Kunth
Prunus serotina capuli (Cav.) McVaugh
Common Name: Capulin Cherry
Prunus serotina salicifolia is a deciduous tree usually growing less than 15 metres tall, but occasionally taller. The bole is usually short and up to 90cm in diameter.
The tree is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, dye and source of wood. The plant is often cultivated for its edible fruit in Mesoamerica.
The plant (especially the seed and young shoots) contains cyanogenic glycosides, especially amygdalin and prunasin. When injested, these compounds break down in the digestive tract to release cyanide. Used in small quantities in both traditional and conventional medicine, this exceedingly poisonous compound has been shown to stimulate respiration, improve digestion, and promote a sense of well-being[
]. It is also claimed by some to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer - though this claim has been largely refuted.
In larger concentrations, however, cyanide can cause gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma and respiratory failure leading to death[
The fruits and flowers of most members of this genus generally have low or very low concentrations of this toxin, though the seeds and young shoots can contain much higher levels.
The levels of toxin can be detected by the level of bitterness:- for example sweet tasting almond seeds are a major food crop and are often eaten in quantity, whilst bitter tasting almond seeds are used as a flavouring (in marzipan for example) but are not usually eaten on their own.
In general, it can be considered safe to eat any fruit or seed from species in this genus that either have a sweet flavour or are slightly bitter. Great caution should be taken, however, if the flavour is moderately to very bitter[
Southern N. America - Mexico to Guatemala
Pine or mixed forest in mountainous areas of Guatemala, at elevations of 1,500 - 3,000 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Prunus serotina salicifolia is a plant of higher elevations in tropical areas, it can also be grown in the subtropics and temperate zones[
]. It grows best in areas with a well-distributed, medium rainfall[
]. The trees have a very low chilling requirement and are adapted to grow in warm winter areas where true cherries are unable to fruit[
]. Plants have tolerated temperatures down to about -22°c in Massachusetts, N. America[
Thrives in a well-drained moisture-retentive loamy soil, growing well on limestone[
]. Prefers some lime in the soil but is likely to become chlorotic if too much is present[
]. Plants are not exacting in their soil requirements, succeeding in poor soils and in clays[
]. Requires a sunny position[
This species is closely related to Prunus serotina, but it has larger edible fruits[
A fast growing and vigorous species, it can fruit in its third year from seed[
]. Seedling trees usually take 6 - 8 years before they commence cropping[
There are some named varieties[
Prunus serotina salicifolia is cultivated for its edible fruit in the highlands of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, as well as at lower elevations in the warm temperate zone[
]. There are some named varieties[
]. 'Ecuadorian' has large sweet fruit and is a heavy cropper[
]. 'Fausto' has large sweet fruit and is a good cropper. 'Harriet' is a dwarf tree with large fruit[
]. 'Hauchi Grande' has large mild-flavoured fruit and is a very heavy cropper[
Most members of this genus are shallow-rooted and will produce suckers if the roots are damaged[
Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. Thin skinned with a juicy sub-acid to sweet flesh but a slightly astringent aftertaste[
]. They can be eaten out of hand or cooked and processed to preserves, jam, pastries; with milk and spices as beverage, for liqueur and wine etc[
]. The juice is often mixed with cornmeal to make a cake[
]. The red to black, globose fruits are up to 25mm across, containing a single large seed[
Seed - raw or cooked. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.
Different parts of the tree are used in folk medicine[
Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, all members of the genus contain amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being[
A green dye can be obtained from the leaves[
A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit[
The seeds contain 35% of semi-drying oil, used for preparing soap and paints[
Seedlings can be used as rootstocks for sweet-cherries[
The wood is hard, insect resistant. It is used for furniture, musical instruments etc[
The wood is a good fuel[
Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[
]. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible[
]. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, mid summer in a frame[
Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame[
Layering in spring.