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A Comprehensive Guide to Alabama Cherry (Prunus alabamensis)

Alabama Cherry (Prunus alabamensis) is a tree that is native in the southeastern United States. This plant is a host to a species of moth and is an important nectar source for other insects. Growing from 20 to 40 feet tall, this species grows in dry woodlands, rocky slopes, sandhills, and low mountains. The white flowers bloom from April to May and the plant is hardy in zones 7-9.

Taxonomy and Naming of Alabama Cherry (Prunus alabamensis)

Herbarium specimen of alabama cherry (Prunus alabamensis).
Herbarium Specimen — Prunus alabamensis C.Mohr by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0).


Alabama Cherry (Prunus alabamensis) was named and described by Charles Mohr, an American botanist who was from Germany, in 1899. Mohr found the species in 1892 in Alabama (Sargent 1902). It still has the same name and is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). This plant is sometimes considered to be a variety of the wild black cherry (Prunus serotina).

Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names

Scientific Name

The genus name, Prunus, is Latin for “plum tree.” The species name, alabamensis, is a Latinized version of the state where the species was first found.

Common Name and Alternative Names

The common name comes from the state where the species was first found. Another comon name is the Alabama Black Cherry and the wild cherry.

Physical Description

Tree of alabama cherry (Prunus alabamensis) in a wooded setting.
Tree of Alabama Cherry on a Rocky Slope — Prunus serotina var. alabamensis (C.Mohr) Little observed in United States of America by Southern Appalachia (licensed under CC0 1.0).
  • Plant Type: This plant is a small to medium tree.
  • Height: 20 to 40 feet tall
  • Stem: The trunk and branches have reddish hairs.
  • Leaves: The leaves are alternate, petiolate, ovate, elliptical to obovate and are 1 to 5 inches in length and 0.5 to 3 inches in width.
  • Flower color: white
  • Blooming period: This plant blooms from April to May.
  • Fruiting type and period: This plant has red, purple to black drupes that mature in the summer to early fall.

Range of Alabama Cherry in the United States and Canada

Range map of alabama cherry (Prunus alabamensis) in the United States and Canada.
Range Map Credit: Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2023.(website Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2023. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]

This species is native and endemic in the southeastern United States.


Sandy woodland habitat in Delaware.
Sandy Woodland Habitat — Robert Coxe, Image

This species grows in dry woodlands, sandhills (Weakley, et al 2022), rocky summits on siliceous rocks (Mohr 1899), and low mountains.

Hosted Insects

Pink-washed leafroller (Hedya separatana) on fabric.
Pink-washed Leafroller (Hedya separatana) — David Dodd, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This species is a host to the pink-washed leafroller (Hedya separatana) (Gaden, et al 2023).

Other Supported Wildlife

Metallic bee on white flower.
Flower with Metallic Bee — David Whelan, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This species is an important nectar source to other butterflies, skippers, bees, and wasps. Birds and small mammals enjoy the fruits in the summer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this plant have any ethnobotanical uses?

The Native American Ethobotanical Database does not list this species specifically, but the wild black cherry (Prunus serotina) that is closely related has been used for numerous pharmaceuticals, wood, and foods.

How is this plant distinguished from other Cherries (Prunus spp.)?

This species is separated from the similar wild black cherry by the fact that the leaves are pubescent and the branchlets are also hairy, the wild black cherry is glabrous on both the leaves and the branches (Weakley, et al 2022). The crenate leaf margins and entire sepal margins separate this species from the chokcherry (Prunus virginiana), which has serrate leaves and toothed sepal margins (Flora of North America). Alabama cherry has been described as having a crooked or leaning trunk, which different from P. serotina (Harper 1913).

Is this plant invasive?

This plant has not been noted as being invasive in the literature.

Gardening with Alabama Cherry

Leaves of alabama cherry (Prunus alabamensis).
Leaves of Alabama Cherry — Prunus serotina var. alabamensis (C.Mohr) Little observed in United States of America by Southern Appalachia (licensed under CC0 1.0).


This species is hardy in zones 7-9. If your garden is within these zones and you have the right growing conditions (soil, moisture and exposure), you may well be able to grow this plant. However, if planted outside of its range, the hosted species may not recognize the plant or be harmed by ingesting a different species with an unfamiliar chemical composition.

Optimal Conditions

This species grows in full sun to part-shade and prefers medium to dry well-drained soil.


  • Gaden, S. Robinson, Philip R. Ackery, Ian Kitching, George W. Baccaloni, Luis M. Hernandez. 2023. Hosts (from HOSTS – a database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants) [Data set resource]. Natural History Museum. Link to Host Database Reference.
  • Harper, Roland M. 1913. Economic Botany of Alabama Part 1. Monograph 8 Geological Survey of Alabama.
  • Mohr, Charles. 1899. Notes on some new and little known Plants of the Alabama Flora. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 26: 118-121.
  • Sargent, Charles Sprague. 1902. The silva of North America: a description of the trees which grow naturally in North America exclusive of Mexico. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company).
  • Weakley, A.S. and Southeastern Flora Team 2022. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.