Page author: David Giblin
Prunus emarginata
bitter cherry

Distribution: Occurring on both sides of the Cascades crest in Washington; British Columbia to California, east to the Rocky Mountains.

Habitat: Thickets, rocky slopes, open forests, shorelines, and openings, from the lowlands to subalpine.

Flowers: April-June

Origin: Native

Growth Duration: Perennial

Conservation Status: Not of concern

Pollination: Bumblebees, bees, flies, beetles


Deciduous, straggly shrubs to erect, spreading trees 15 m. tall, the bark deep reddish-purple on the young twigs.


Leaves alternate, the blades elliptic to oblong or obovate, finely serrate, 3-8 cm. long, with petioles 5-12 mm. long.


Inflorescence a few-flowered, flat-topped raceme; calyx cup-shaped, the 5 oblong-lanceolate lobes 2.5-3.5 mm. long; petals 5, white, obovate, 5-7 mm. long, pubescent on the lower surface; stamens about 20; pistil 1.


Drupe dark red to nearly black, 8-12 mm. long, very bitter.

Accepted Name:
Prunus emarginata (Douglas) Eaton
Publication: Man. Bot. (ed. 7) 463. 1836.

Synonyms & Misapplications:
Cerasus erecta Presl.
Cerasus mollis Dougl. Ex Hook.
Cerasus prunifolia Greene
Prunus emarginata (Douglas) Eaton var. crenulata (Greene) Kearney & Peebles
Prunus emarginata (Douglas) Eaton var. emarginata [HC]
Prunus emarginata (Douglas) Eaton var. mollis (Douglas ex Hook.) W.H. Brewer [HC]
Additional Resources:

PNW Herbaria: Specimen records of Prunus emarginata in the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria database

WA Flora Checklist: Prunus emarginata checklist entry

OregonFlora: Prunus emarginata information

E-Flora BC: Prunus emarginata atlas page

CalPhotos: Prunus emarginata photos

83 photographs:
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