Wild cherry (Prunus avium L.) is also known as gean or mazzard. It is an attractive native species which can produce high quality timber over a short rotation and tends to be less damaged by squirrels than other species. As it is light demanding, it frequently can be found occurring as single trees or small groups, particularly along lowland woodland edges. Cherry often reproduces vegetatively by suckering so clumps frequently consist of identical trees. It is one of the first trees to flower in spring and the fruits are eaten by many small mammals and birds. Its attractive nature and its ability to grow well in many soil types has made cherry a common species in farm woodlands.

Why cherry is important

Demand for wild cherry timber is high, though top quality timber can be hard to find and very expensive. The timber is used for cabinet making, furniture, panelling and decorative joinery.

Cherry plus tree, selected for good form and vigour

Our progress so far

Historically, many cherry seedlings planted in the UK were of continental origin and of unknown quality and uncertain adaptability. Many had characteristics similar to sweet cherry which have been bred to produce large fruited, heavily cropping trees with a wide, open and strong branching habit for ease of picking. Trees selected for timber production will have light branching, vigorous and strong apical growth. Timber trees also tend to be much less susceptible to bacterial canker.  Therefore, ensuring trees are of a timber type is essential for forestry purposes.

The aim of the wild cherry improvement programme is to produce vigorous, well-formed trees of known timber quality characteristics, with resistance pests and diseases, especially cherry blackfly and bacterial canker. Working in partnership with East Malling Research, Future Trees Trust has helped with the development of several seed orchards which have been producing seeds for the nursery stock industry for over ten years.  As a result of having high quality seed available the industry has significantly improved the quality of planting material available to foresters.

With up to 300,000 plants produced annually the old reliance on importing poor quality plants from Europe, which often had a sweet cherry origin, has been significantly reduced.

A clonal cherry trial, that is testing form, vigour and disease resistance of selected trees