Bird cherry

Bird Cherry


Bird cherry

Scientific name: Prunus padus
The bird cherry can be found in wet woodlands and along streams in upland areas, in particular. Its fragrant blossom appears in April and is followed by bitter, black fruits - good for wildlife, but not us!

Species information


Height: up to 25m

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


As its name suggests, the bird cherry is a native tree related to the wild cherry. It can be found in wet woodland or along stream edges and hedgerows. As it can tolerate greater exposure and elevation than wild cherry, it often grows in upland woodlands. Its fragrant flowers appear around April and produce black and bitter fruits. It is a useful tree for a variety of wildlife: the flowers provide nectar and pollen for insects, and the fruit are eaten by birds, badgers and small mammals. Additionally, some moth caterpillars eat the leaves.

How to identify

The bird cherry has dark green, oval leaves that have tufts of white hairs on their undersides when young; the edges of the leaves have fine, sharp serrations and their tips are pointed. The flowers of this plant have five white petals and the fruits are small and dark red or black.


Widespread in Scotland, Northern England, Wales and East Anglia, but scarce elsewhere.

Did you know?

The bird cherry has smooth, peeling, grey-brown bark that has an unpleasant, acrid scent. It smells so strong, it was placed on people's doors to ward off the plague!

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for woodland plants.