This shrub is about 2-6' tall with ascending branches and an irregular
crown. Older branches are reddish brown with scattered white
lenticels, or sometimes with a light gray coating that peels off to
reveal darker bark below. Young shoots are light green and either
glabrous or short-pubescent. Along these branches and shoots, there are
alternate leaves about 1½-2½" long and ½-1¼" across; most of these
leaves are tilted upward (ascending). The leaves are broadly
elliptic-oblong or obovate with appressed glandular teeth along their
middle to outer margins. The upper leaf surface is yellowish green to
medium green and glabrous, while the lower surface is pale green and
glabrous. The petioles are ¼-¾" long.
From the axils of the leaves,
there occasionally develops small umbels of flowers. Individual flowers
are about ½" across, consisting of 5 white spreading petals, a light
green calyx with 5 lobes, 15-20 stamens, and a pistil with a style. The
petals are larger than the lobes of the short-tubular calyx. The calyx
lobes are oval-ovate in shape and minutely toothed along their margins.
The blooming period occurs during late spring and lasts about 2 weeks.
The flowers are replaced by drupes that are ovoid to globoid in
shape, becoming about 1/3" (8 mm.) across and dark purple to black at
Each drupe has juicy flesh and contains a single seed (pit or small
stone). The root system is woody and branching.
preference is full sun, dry conditions, and sandy soil. If this shrub
is grown in moist fertile soil, it will become larger in size (up to 8'
or more) than what normally occurs in its native habitat.
The native Susquehana Sand Cherry is
northern Illinois, where it is uncommon.
Habitats include dry sand prairies, inland sand dunes, and foredunes
along Lake Michigan.
The root system of
Susquehana Sand Cherry plays a
role in stabilizing sand dunes; it also adds organic matter to the
sandy soil, setting the stage for the succession of vegetation that is
less tolerant of sterile sand.
There is an abundance of information about
relationships for cherry trees and shrubs (Prunus spp.
is available about the Susquehana Sand Cherry specifically. Generally,
the nectar and pollen of the flowers attract such insect visitors as
bumblebees (Bombus spp.
Andrenid bees (Andrena
), Halictid bees
etc.), Syrphid flies, Calliphorid
flies, Tachinid flies, and other flies. Less often, butterflies and
skippers may visit the flowers for nectar. Other insects feed on the
foliage and other parts of these trees and shrubs. The caterpillars of
two moths, Zale lunifera
(Bold-Based Zale) and Prionapteryx
have been observed to feed on Susquehanna Sand Cherry. More broadly,
the caterpillars of many other moths are known to feed on cherry trees
and shrubs (see Moth Table
), as do
the caterpillars of such butterflies
as Limenitis arthemis
(Red-Spotted Purple) and Satyrium titus
(Coral Hairstreak). Other insect feeders include the larvae of
(Apple Twig Borer), Tricholochmaea
(Cherry Leaf Beetle) and
other leaf beetles, Rhopalosiphum
Aphid) and other aphids, Eratoneura
and other leafhoppers, the larvae of Onycholyda luteicornis
other sawflies, the larvae of Rhagoletis
Fruit Fly), and the thrips Liothrips
(which is found under bark). Cherry fruits are a favorite
source of food for many songbirds and some upland gamebirds. These
fruits are eaten by such birds as the Greater Prairie Chicken, Wild
Turkey, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, Eastern
Kingbird, American Robin, and Cedar Waxwing. Some mammals supplement
their diets with these fruits: Examples include the Red Fox,
Coyote, Eastern Skunk, Deer Mouse, and White-Footed Mouse. The fruit
of the Susquehana Sand Cherry is a potential food source of the Ornate
Box Turtle, which favors the open sandy habitats where this shrub
occurs. These animals distribute the seeds of cherry trees and shrubs
to new locations. In addition to the fruit, the Cottontail Rabbit eats
young seedlings and gnaws on the
bark, while the White-Tailed Deer browses on the twigs and foliage.
An inland sand dune at the Oak
Metropark in NW Ohio.
In addition to the scientific name that is used here, this shrub has
been referred to as Prunus
Other common names that refer to this shrub
include Sand Cherry, Susquehana Cherry, and Appalachian
Compared to the typical variety of Sand Cherry, Prunus pumila
, Susquehana Sand Cherry has wider leaves with
more obtuse tips. Another variety of Sand Cherry, Prunus pumila depressa
a low sprawling plant only 1-2' tall that is found along sandy beaches.
Of these different varieties, only the Susquehana Sand Cherry (Prunus
has been found in Illinois.