THE HISTORY OF CULTIVATED CHERRIES                                                    HOME

History casts no direct light upon the period when the cherry first came under cultivation. Undoubtedly primitive men in all parts of the North Temperate Zone enlivened their scanty fruit fare with wild cherries. Cultivated cherries, we know, had their origin in the Old World. But history tells us nothing of the period when Europe and Asia were unbroken forests inhabited by savages who eked out a precarious subsistence by the pursuit of the chase and from meagre harvests of wild grains, fruits and vegetables. On these continents agriculture and rude civilization began in ages immemorial and cultivated plants diversified, enriched and adorned the landscapes long before the first written records. Our knowledge of how wild cherries have been remodeled into the orchard and garden varieties of today - of what the methods and processes of domestication have been - is, therefore, doubtful and limited, for the mind and hand of man had been deeply impressed upon the cherry long before the faint traditions which have been transmitted to our day could possibly have arisen.

The history of the cherry, then, goes back to primitive man. Direct proof of the ancient use of cherries is furnished by the finding of cherry-pits of several species in the deposits of Swiss lake-dwellings, in the mounds and cliff-caves of prehistoric inhabitants of America and in the ancient rubbish-heaps of Scandinavian countries. There are but few regions in which cultivated cherries are grown in which the inhabitants in times of stress, or by choice in times of plenty, do not now use as food wild cherries, some species of which grow in abundance and under the most varied conditions, almost from the Arctic Circle to within a few degrees of the Tropic of Cancer in a belt encircling the globe. It is probable that all of the wild species which have furnished fruit to the aborigines or to the modern inhabitants of a region have been sparingly cultivated-at the very least if they possessed any considerable food value they have been more or less widely distributed by the hand of man. But, curiously enough, out of the score or more of species of which the fruit is used as food as the plants grow wild, but two may be said to be truly domesticated. These are the Sour, or Pie Cherry, Prunus cerasus, and the Sweet Cherry, Prunus avium, with the histories of which we are now to be concerned.

Pliny is generally accredited as the first historian of the cherry. Nearly eighteen and a half centuries ago he gave an account of the cherries of Rome with the statement that Lucullus, the Roman soldier and gourmet, had brought them to Rome 65 years before Christ from the region of the Black Sea. This particular in the account proves to be a good illustration of the adage that old errors strike root deeply. Though disproved beyond all question of doubt time and time again by botanists and historians, Pliny's inadvertence is still everywhere current in textbooks, pomologies and cyclopaedias-a misstatement started, repeated and perpetuated from medieval days when to be printed in Pliny was sufficient proof. That Lucullus brought to Italy a cherry and one which the Romans did not know there is no reason to doubt, but other cherries there must have been, not only wild but cultivated, of Prunus cerasus at least and probably of Prunus avium, and in comparative abundance long before Lucullus, returning from the war in Pontus with Mithridates, brought to Rome a cherry. With this brief mention of Pliny's inaccuracy, we pass to more substantial facts in the history of the cherry.

The domestication of one or the other of the two generally cultivated species of cherries followed step by step the changes from savagery to civilization in the countries of Europe and of western Asia. For, as one sorts the accumulated stores of botanical and historical evidence, it becomes quickly apparent that both the Sweet and the Sour Cherry now grow wild and long have done so in the region named and that, from the time tillage of plants was first practiced in the Old World, this fruit has been under cultivation, feeble, obscure, and interrupted by war and chase though its cultivation may have been. Certainly the history of the cherry is as old as that of agriculture in the southern European countries and is interwritten with it.

In beginning the history of a cultivated plant the first step is to ascertain where it grows spontaneously - where it may be found unplanted and unattended by man. This is the task now before us for Prunus cerasus and Prunus avium, discussing them in the order named.


Prunus cerasus, of which the Montmorency is the commonest representative in America, is now to be found wild wherever Sour Cherries are much grown, for it is a favorite food of many birds which quickly scatter its seeds from centers of cultivation. Nearly all of the botanies of temperate regions in which agriculture is carried on name this cherry as an escape from cultivation into woods and hedgerows and along roadsides. The Sour Cherry, then, is now to be found truly wild in many parts of several continents. It is not so easy to say where the habitat and what the condition before the species was cultivated. But botany, archaeology, history and philology indicate that the original habitat of the. Sour Cherry is southeastern Europe and the nearby countries in Asia.

After saying that this cherry has been found wild in the forests of Asia Minor, the plains of Macedonia, on Mount Olympus and in neighboring territories, De Candolle, however, limits its habitat to the region "from the Caspian Sea to the environments of Constantinople." But as a wild plant this cherry must have spread over a far greater area. Even the broadest boundaries of the habitat of Prunus cerasus as set by De Candolle show over-caution. Thus, the Marasca cherry, a botanical variety of Prunus cerasus, is most certainly wild in the Province of Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea in Austria; so, too, it is certain that this species is feral as far away from De Candolle's center of distribution as northern Austria and southern Germany and has been so for untold ages. It is safe to say that the original source of the Sour Cherry was the territory lying between Switzerland and the Adriatic Sea on the west and the Caspian Sea and probably somewhat farther north on the east. That is, our savage forefathers must have found this cherry in the region thus outlined, probably in a much more extended territory, into which it was brought in more or less remote times by agencies other than human from De Candolle's smaller area of origin.

It is easier to define the geographic range of the wild Sweet Cherry. Botanists very generally agree that Prunus avium as a wild plant inhabits all of the mainland of Europe in which the cultivated varieties of the species can be grown -that is, most of the continent south of Sweden and may be found wild well into southern Russia. The species is reported sparingly wild in northern Africa and is a very common wild plant in southern Asia as far east as northern India. It must not be thought that the plant is everywhere abundant in the great area outlined as its habitat. To the contrary, the Sweet Cherry is an uncommon wild plant in Spain, Italy and other parts of southern Europe. All authorities agree that the region of greatest communal intensity for Prunus avium is between the Caspian and Black Seas and south of these bodies of water. It might suffice to say that from about these seas the Sweet Cherry came - that here grow the trunk from which branches were spread into other lands by birds and animals carrying the seeds from place to place. The most important fact to be established, however, is that this cherry has long grown spontaneously over a widely extended territory and may, therefore, have been domesticated in several widely separated regions.


Having established the habitats of the two cultivated cherries we, may next ask when and where their cultivation began. The domestication of plants probably began in China - certainly Chinese agriculture long antedates that of any other nation now in existence of which we have records. Agriculture in China, historians roughly approximate, goes back 4,000 years. But while the Chinese have many other species of cherry, as we have seen, some of which may be said to be partially domesticated, Prunus cerasus and Prunus avium are not found wild in China and were only in recent years introduced there as cultivated plants. Neither does the cherry of our civilization seem to have been known in the second great agricultural region of the world - Egypt and the extreme southwest of Asia. At least there are no words for the cherry in the languages of the peoples of that region and cherry pits have not been found with the remains of other plants in the tombs and ruins of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. Nor does the cherry seem to have been cultivated in India until comparatively recent times.

These very brief and general statements show that cherries were not cultivated in the first agricultural civilizations and serve to fix the time and the place of the domestication of the cherry a little more definitely. Records of cherries as cultivated plants begin, so far as the researches of botanical historians now show, with Greek civilization though it is probable, for several reasons, that some cultivated cherries came to Greece from Asia Minor.

Theophrastus, to whom Linnaeus gave the title "Father of Botany,"writing about 300 years before the Christian era in his History of Plants, is, according to botanical historians, the first of the Greek writers to mention the cherry. His statement is as follows:

"The cherry is a peculiar tree, of large size, some attaining the height of twenty-four cubits, rather thick, so that they may measure two cubits in circumference at the base. The leaf is like that of the mespilus, rather firm and broader, the color of the foliage such that the tree may be distinguished from others at a good distance. The bark, by its color, smoothness and thickness, is like that of tilia. The flower [meaning, the cluster of flowers] is white, resembling that of the pear and mespilus, consisting of small [separate] flowers. The fruit is red, similar to that of diospyros (but what his diospyros was no one knows] of the size of a faba [perhaps nelumbo seed], which is hard, but the cherry is soft. The tree grows in the same situations as tilia; by streams."3

From this passage we gather that the cherry Theophrastus knew was the Sweet Cherry, Prunus avium; the description shows it to be the same large, tall tree now naturalized in open woods and along roadsides in many, parts of the United States. From the fact that Theophrastus describes the tree and the bark in more detail than the fruit we may assume that the cherry was more esteemed in ancient Greece as a timber-tree than as a fruit-tree. Curiously enough the name the Greeks at this time used for the Sweet Cherry is now applied to Prunus cerasus, the Sour Cherry.

"Kerasos "was the Sweet Cherry in ancient Greece and from kerasos came Cerasus, used by many botanists as the name of the genus. That the Sweet Cherry should by the use of avium, be denominated the "bird cherry" is clear since birds show much discrimination between cherries, but why the Sour Cherry should be given the specific name Cerasus, first applied to the Sweet cherry, is not apparent.

Pages are written in the old pomologies and botanical histories as to the origin of the word Cerasus. Pliny's statement that Lucullus called the cherry Cerasus from the town from which he obtained it, Kerasan in Pontus, on the Black Sea, is, in the light of all who have since looked into the matter, a misconception. To the contrary, commentators now agree that the town received its name from the cherry which grows most abundantly in the forests in that part of Asia Minor. The name, according to all authorities, is very ancient - a linguistic proof of the antiquity of the cherry.

To sum up, the cherry comes into literature first from Greece in the writings of Theophrastus. There can be but little doubt, however, but that it had been cultivated for centuries before Theophrastus wrote. Whether one or both of the two cherries were domesticated by the Greeks, beginning with their civilization, or whether cultivated cherries came to Greece from Asia Minor, is not now known. It is very probable that some of the several varieties grown in Greece came under cultivation through domestication of wild plants; others were introduced from regions farther east.


A digression may be permitted here to state a hypothesis suggested by De Candolle4 which should interest both fruit-growers and plant-breeders. De Candolle, while considering the two species of cultivated cherries to be now quite distinct, suggests that, since they differ essentially but little in their characters and since their original habitats were in the same region, it is probable that one species came from the other. He surmises, since Prunus avium is the commoner in the original home, is generally the more vigorous of the two, has spread much farther and probably at a much earlier date from the primal habitation in Asia Minor than Prunus cerasus, that the latter, the Sour Cherry, is derived from the Sweet Cherry. In the future breeding of cherries confirmatory evidence of such a relationship may be obtained though, should none be found, the negation should go for naught and the supposition cati oray remain an interesting and plausible hypothesis.


Pliny attempts to give the first full account of cultivated cherries and, even though among his statements are several inaccuracies, yet he may be said to have made a very good beginning of a flora of cultivated cherries for he names and describes ten varieties. The fact that there were as many as ten cherries in Italy at the time Pliny wrote, less than a century after the return of Lucullus from Pontus, is strong evidence that the cherry in Italy antedates Lucullus. Besides, it is hardly probable that Pliny knew and described all of the cherries to be found in the whole of his country. But even if these ten comprise the entire number, those who know how extremely difficult it is to introduce new plants in a country with the facilities we have in our day, will doubt that all of the cherries in Pliny's account could have been introduced in Italy 1900 years ago and have come under general cultivation, as according to Pliny they had, within the short space of a century. The following quotation, then, must be taken as an account of the cherries grown in Italy in the first century after Christ with little weight given to the historical evidence presented.5

"The cherry did not exist in Italy before the period of the victory gained over Mithridates by L. Lucullus, in the year of the City 680. He was the first to introduce this tree from Pontus, and now, in the course of one hundred and twenty years, it has travelled beyond the Ocean, and arrived in Britannia even. The cherry, as we have already stated, in spite of every care, has been found impossible to rear in Egypt. of this fruit, that known as the "Apronian "is the reddest variety, the Lutatian being the blackest, and the Caecilian perfectly round. The Junian cherry has an agreeable flavour, but only, so to say, when eaten beneath the tree, as they are so remarkably delicate that they will not bear carrying. The highest rank, however, has been awarded to the Duracinus variety, known in Campania as the "Plinian "cherry, and in Belgica to the Lusitanian cherry, as also to one that grows on the banks of the Phenus. This last kind has a third colour, being a mixture of black, red, and green, and has always the appearance of being just on the turn to ripening. It is less than five years since the kind known as the "laurel-cherry "was introduced, of a bitter but not unpleasant flavour, the produce of a graft upon the laurel. The Macedonian cherry grows on a tree that is very small, and rarely exceeds three cubits in height; while the chamaecerasus is still smaller, being but a mere shrub. The cherry is one of the first trees to recompense the cultivator with its yearly growth; it loves cold localities and a site exposed to the north. The fruits are sometimes dried in the sun, and preserved, like olives, in casks."

How are the cherries described in the passage from Pliny related to those of modern culture? A score or more of commentators have tried to tell but when the comments are compared Pliny's disorder becomes confusion worse confounded. Here, as in his historical statements, Pliny seems to have prepared the ground for a fine crop of misunderstandings. The speculations as to what particular cherry each of the descriptions fits quickly show the futility of specification. A few generalizations only are warranted.

Thus, if we assume, as most commentators do, that Apronian, the first of Pliny's varieties, was named after Apronius, a Roman praetor of Pliny's day, there is nothing to indicate the character of the cherry except the word "reddest "which means but little for it is no more possible to distinguish cherries by redness than by its blackness to tell a pot from a kettle.

It is as impossible to distinguish the second variety as the first, The name given is Ltttatian, the variety having been dedicated, as all commentators agree, to Lutatius Catulus, a contemporary of Lucullus, revered by Romans for having rebuilt the capitol after it had been destroyed by fire. It is described as "being the blackest "but whether Prunus avium or Prunus cerasus, sweet or sour, who can tell?

The third variety is called the Caecilian cherry, which we are told is "perfectly round "- a character possessed in like degree by many cherries. The name, on the authority of Latin scholars, commemorates the Caecilius family, rich and powerful Romans, friends of Lucullus at the time he was promoting cherry culture.

We may be a little more certain of the identity of the fourth cherry, called the junian, and said to have been possessed of "an agreeable flavor but only, so to say, when eaten beneath the tree, as they are so remarkably delicate that they will not bear carrying."Whether the name was given in honor of the Roman Republican, junius Brutus, who died 42 A.D. or from junius, the month of their ripening, cannot be said. The description, as practically all agree, fits very well the French Guigne or English Gean group of cherries. It is probable that "Guigne "is a perversion of "junian."

There can be little question as to the cherry Pliny next describes, the Duracinus variety "which he says has been awarded "highest rank "and to which he paid the compliment of giving it his own name, for he tells us that it is "known in Campania as the Plinian cherry."

This hard-fleshed cherry of detectable quality can be no other than a Bigarreau - some protean Napoleon, Yellow Spanish, Windsor or the older Oxheart and Elkhorn.

The sixth cherry is the Lusitanian, which, if the translations read aright, the Belgians rank highest. Ancient Lusitania is modern Portugal and the Lusitanian cherry may be the Griotte of Portugal grown from time immemorial in that country. The identity of the variety is not so important in this passage as is the connection that Pliny establishes in cherry culture at this early time between Portugal, Italy and Belgium. By such tokens does our author cast doubt upon his statement that Lucullus had but yesterday, as it were, brought the cherry from Pontus.

The seventh cherry is one "that grows on the banks of the Rhenus "(Rhine), further described as "being a mixture of black, red and green,"and of having "always the appearance of being just on the turn to ripening."It is useless to add another guess to those of the many commentators as to what this tri-colored cherry from the banks of the Rhine may be. The eighth description, that of the "laurel-cherry,"applies to a graft and not to a variety. of it, Pliny says, "It is less than five years since the kind known as the laurel-cherry was introduced, of a bitter, but not unpleasant flavor, the produce of a graft upon the laurel."It is barely possible that a cherry could be made to grow on a laurel five years but it is extremely doubtful, as all modern horticulturists who have tried it say, and it is impossible to have such a graft bear fruit. Pliny was misinformed.

The ninth and tenth of Pliny's cherries, the Macedonian and the Chamaecerasus, are probably one and the same, since but one cherry that could possibly answer to the descriptions given could have been in Italy at the time Pliny wrote. The cherry described, then, was almost beyond doubt Prunus fruticosa Pallas, a synonym of which is Prunus chamaecerasus jacquin, perpetuating the name used by Pliny. This is the European Dwarf Cherry, or Ground Cherry, which is now and was probably then a wild plant in parts of Italy and which is very well described by "a tree that is very small, and rarely exceeds three cubits in height."

We have accredited Pliny with having first described cherries in Italy and discredited his account of their introduction in his own country, but chiefly on inferential evidence. just a few words of direct proof that the cherry was long in cultivation by the Romans before Lucullus and we have done with the introduction of the cherry into Italy and have filled another gap between Theophrastus and our own times. Marcus Terentius Varro (B.C. 197-27), one of the illustrious scholars of ancient Rome, sometimes called the father of Roman learning, in his eightieth year, as he tells us in his first chapter, wrote a book on farming-one, which, by the way, may be read with profit by modern farmers.6 In book I, chapter XXXIX, he tells when to graft cherries, discussing the process not as if it or the cherry were new or little known but as if the cherry were as commonplace as the other agricultural crops of the times. Varro effectually disproves Pliny to whose misstatement we have given so much space only because for -nearly 2000 years it has been generally accepted as the truth.

The gaps in the history of the cherry are long. Athenaeus,7Tertullian,8Ammianus,9 and St. Jerome,10 Roman writers of the Third and Fourth Centuries, mention cherries but chiefly to repeat and perpetuate Pliny's errors. It was not until the Sixteenth Century - a lapse of 1400 years-that an attempt was again made to describe in full cultivated cherries. Sometime in this century, Matthiolus (1487-1577), a Tuscan and one of the eminent naturalists not only of Italy but of the world in the Middle Ages, in translating and annotating the medical works of the Greek writer Dioscorides, made a list of the fruit-trees then grown in Italy. As the second descriptive list of cherries this contribution of Matthiolus might be worth reprinting were it not, as in Pliny, that but few of his varieties can be certainly made out. He does, however, make a number of additions to Pliny's list but space does not permit a consideration of these; especially since Gerarde, writing less than a century later in English, so well amplifies Matthiolus that we shall print his account.


Pliny mentions the cherry as growing in several countries and, by reading between lines, we may assume that cultivated cherries were distributed throughout all parts of Europe where agriculture was practiced, by Christ's time or shortly thereafter. Pliny speaks of the cherry in some connection with England, Germany, Belgium and Portugal. Surely we may assume that the cherry was being grown at the same time in at least the countries in Europe which are between or border on those named. But from Pliny to the Sixteenth Century the current of progress in cherry culture was immeasurably slow. In the intervening 1600 years not a score of new cherries were brought under cultivation. Attention was probably given during these dark ages to this and to all fruits as species and as divisions of species which came nearly or quite true to seed. It was only in the refinements of horticulture and botany brought about by the herbalists that true horticultural varieties came into common cultivation.

Thus, the first of the German herbals, the Herbarius, printed at Mainz in 1491, does not describe or even name varieties of cherries but groups them in the two species as Sweets and Sours, the statement running:11 "The cherries are some sweet, some sour, like the wild apple; the sours bring to the stomach gas and make the mouth fresh (frisch), those too sweet or too sour are of little use."A wood-cut in this old herbal illustrates a Sour Cherry.

According to Mueller,11 not until 1569 did the Germans attempt to give names to varieties, when, in a medical herbal, the Gart der Gesundheit, cherries were roughly divided into four groups: (i) The Amarellen, sour, dark red cherries with long stems. (2) The Weichselkirschen, red cherries with white juice and short stems. (3) The Suesskirschen, red or black Sweet Cherries with long stems- (4) "Beside these yet more "distinguished by their shape and the province in which they are grown. Not until well into the Eighteenth Century do the Germans seem to have given names to more than a few of the most distinct varieties of cherries. Yet the cherry was more largely cultivated in Germany, one, two, or three centuries ago, as it is now, than in any other European country. This, one readily gleans from what has been written on cherries in different countries and from the acknowledgments of foreign pomologists to those of Germany for most of what has been printed regarding cherries. Not only has the cherry been a favorite orchard plant in Germany but since the Sixteenth Century it has been largely planted along the public roads.

Of cherries on the continent, for this brief history, nothing more need be said. Most of the varieties that have been imported from Europe to America have come from England and we must, therefore, devote rather more attention to the history of the cherry in England than in other European countries.


Cultivated cherries came to England with the Romans. Prunus avium is indigenous in Great Britain but probably no care worthy the name cultivation was given these wild trees by the ancient Britons. Pliny states that the cherry was carried from Rome to Britain before the middle of the First Century - meaning probably some improved variety. In no part of the world does the cherry take more kindly to the soil than in England and no doubt this fruit became firmly established in Kent, where the Romans settled, before the downfall of the southern invaders. With the expulsion of the Romans and the subsequent influx of barbarians, agriculture, especially gardening and fruit-growing, became almost a lost art but still it is not probable that the cherry was wholly lost to cultivation during the Teutonic invasions of Britain.

Fruit-growing could not have greatly prospered, however, in the centuries of strife with the barbarians which succeeded Roman rule in England; and a revival of cherry culture did not take place until the reintroduction of Christianity and the establishment of monasteries where, undisturbed by wars, the monks became notable horticulturists. They not only had opportunity in the comparative peace in which their lives were cast to grow fruit but many of them were men of superior intelligence and skill and from intercourse with the continental countries learned what plants were worth growing and how to grow them -the monasteries were the experiment stations of the times. Undoubtedly the monks in bringing to England treasures from the continent did not forget fruits and among them cherries.

Passing by a considerable number of references which could be cited to show that cherries of one kind and another were cultivated in Britain from at least as early a date as the Ninth Century, we come to the discussion of this fruit by the herbalists of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. of the three great English herbalists, Turner published his work in 1538; Gerarde's, printed in 1596, was revised and greatly improved by Johnson in 1633; Parkinson's Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, or Park-in-Suns Earthly Paradise-the author evidently a punster-was published in 1629. All of these contain as full botanical and pomological discussions of cherries as knowledge then permitted.

It must not be thought, by those unacquainted with the plant-lore of the times, that the cherry received consideration only from the pens of Turner, Gerarde, and Parkinson. During the time covered by the lives of these three men a score or more of books were written in English on botany and pomology in which accounts were given of the cherry, all showing the esteem in which this fruit was held in England during and before the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Space permits comments on the account of the cherry given by but one of these Elizabethan herbalists, and of the several Gerarde's seems best suited to our purpose. We have chosen Gerarde because he treats the cherry more fully than do the other writers of the period and because he was a compiler and a translator, having, as he quaintly says, "perused divers Herbals set fourth in other languages; "thus from Gerarde we obtain a conception of cherries growing on the continent as well as those growing in England. Students of the English herbals say that Gerarde translated, copied and adapted from Matthiolus, whose book we have noted, but more particularly from Dodoens who in 1554 Published in Antwerp A History of Plants. These two worthies, in turn, had borrowed very freely from still more ancient twitters - Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Columella and others. As might be suspected, errors centuries old were passed down, yet each new translation or compilation contains much added information and is far freer from error. In particular, Gerarde seems to have been a wise compiler and adapter and to have combined a large measure of first-hand practical knowledge with his borrowings from others. This is especially true of what he writes concerning cherries, a fruit with which he seems to have been very familiar.

The following is Gerarde's account, with interpolations by the author:

"The ancient Herbalists have set down four kinds of Cherry trees; the first is great and wild, the second tame or of the garden, the third hath sour fruit, the fourth is that which is called it, Latin Chamaecerasus, or the dwarfe Cherry tree. The later writers have found divers sorts more, some bringing forth great fruit, others lesser; some with white fruit, some with blacke, others of the colour of black bloud, varying infinitely according to the clymat and country where they grow."

The four cherries which Gerarde says the "ancient herbalists have set down "are, it is easy to see: first, the wild Prunus avium; second, cultivated sweet varieties of Prunus avium; third, the sour Prunus cerasus; fourth, the Dwarf Cherry, Prunus fruticosa.

"The English Cherry tree groweth to a high and great tree, the body whereof is of a mean bignesse, which is parted above into very many boughes, with a barke somewhat smooth, of a brown crimson colour, tough and pliable, the substance or timber is also brown in the middle, and the outer part is somewhat white: the leaves be great, broad, long, set with veins or nerves, and sleightly nicked about the edges: the floures are white, of a mean bigness, consisting of five leaves, and having certain threds in the middle of the like colour- The Cherries be round, hanging upon long stems or footstalks, with a stone in the middest which is covered with a pulp or soft meat; the kernell thereof is not unpleasant to the taste, though somewhat bitter."

This is Prunus avium, which is very generally wild in Britain - the Gean of the English.

"The Flanders Cherry tree differeth not from our English Cherry tree in Stature or form of leaves or floures, the only difference is, that this tree brings forth his fruit sooner and greater than the other, wherefore it may be called in Latine, Cerasus praecox, sive Belgica."

A cherry which "brings forth his fruit sooner and greater than the other "can be no other than one of the early varieties of the Sweet Cherry.

"The Spanish Cherry tree groweth up to the height of our common Cherry tree, the wood or timber is soft and loose, covered with a whitish scaly barke, the branches are knotty, greater and fuller of substance than any other Cherry tree; the leaves are likewise greater and longer than any of the rest, in shape Eke those of the Chestnut tree: the floures are like the others in form, but whiter of colour; the fruit is greater and longer than any, white for the most part all over, except those that stand in the hottest place where the sun hath some reflexion against a wall: they are also white within, and of a pleasant taste."

We have in this description a very good pen picture of Yellow Spanish, one of the Bigarreaus, of which there must have been several in common cultivation in Gerarde's time.

"The Gascoin Cherry tree groweth very near to the Spanish Cherry tree in stature, flours and leaves: it differeth in that it bringeth forth very great Cherries, long, sharp pointed, with a certain hollownesse upon one side, and spotted here and there with certain prickles of purple color as small as sand. The taste is -most pleasant, and excereth in beauty."

Gascoin, sometimes "Gaskin"in England, is a corruption of Gascoigne, a name applied by the French to cherries produced in Gascony and said to have been brought to England by Joan of Kent when her husband, the Black Prince, was commanding in Guienne and Gascony. The variety is a very good Sweet Cherry, no doubt the one described in this text under the name Bleeding Heart.

"The late ripe Cherry tree groweth up like unto our wild English Cherry tree, with the like leaves, branches and floures, saving that they are sometimes once doubled; the fruit is small, round, and of a darke bloudy colour when they be ripe, which the French-men gather with their stalkes, and hang them up in their houses in bunches or handfulls against Winter, which the Physitions do give unto their patients in hot and burning fevers, being first steeped in a little warme water, that causeth them to swell and plumpe as full and fresh as when they did grow upon the tree.

The Cluster Cherry tree differeth not from the last described either in leaves, branches, or stature: the floures are also like, but never commeth any one of them to be double. The fruit is round, red when they be ripe, and many growing upon one stem or foot-stalke in clusters, like as the Grapes do. The taste is not unpleasant although somewhat soure."

These two cherries, one sees at once, are varieties of Prunus cerasus. The first, Gerarde identifies for us on a succeeding page as the Morello, He says of it: "The late ripe cherries which the Frenchmen keepe dried against the winter, and are by them called Morelle, and wee after the same name call them Morell Cherries. "This Cherrie-tree with double floures growes up unto a small tree, not unlike to the common Cherrie-tree in each respect, saving that the floures are somewhat double, that is to say, three or foure times double; after which commeth fruit (though in small quantitie) like the other common Cherry.

"The double floured Cherry-tree growes up like unto an hedge bush, but not so great nor high as any of the others, the leaves and branches differ not from the rest of the Cherry-tree. The Roures hereof are exceeding dotible, as are the flours of Marigolds, but of a white colour, and smelling somewhat like the Hawthorne floures; after which come seldome or never any fruit, although some Authors have said that it beareth sometimes fruit, which my seffe have not at any time seen; notwithstanding the tree hath growne in my Garden many yeeres, and that in an excellent good place by a bricke wall, where it hath the reflection of the South Sunne, fit for a tree that is not willing to beare fruit in our cold climat."These two are double-flowered cherries, several of which seem to have been grown as ornamentals. Both belong to Prunus cerasus and as we gather rather better elsewhere than here, both are of the Amarelle type of tree.

"The Birds Cherry-tree, or the blacke Cherry-tree, that bringeth forth very much fruit upon one branch (which better may be understood by sight of the figure, than by words) springeth up like an Hedge tree of small stature, it groweth in the wilde woods of Kent, and are there used for stockes to graft other Cherries upon, of better tast, and more profit, as especially those called the Planders Cherries: this wilde tree growes very plentifully in the North of England, especially at a place called Heggdale, neere unto Rosgill in Westmerland, and in divers other places about Crosbie Ravenswaith, and there called Hegberrie-tree: it groweth likewise in Martome Parke, foure miles from Blackebume, and in Harward neere thereunto; in Lancashire almost in every hedge; the leaves and branches differ not from those of the wilde Cherry-tree: the floures grow alongst the small branches, consisting of five small white leaves, with some greenish and yellow thrums in the middle-: after which come the fruit, greene at the first, blacke when they be ripe, and of the bignesse of Sloes; of an harsh and unpleasant taste.

"The other birds Cherry-tree differeth not from the former in any respect, but in the colour of the berries; for as they are blacke; so on the contrary, these are red when they be ripe, wherein they differ."The cherries described in these two paragraphs, one black and one red, "that bringeth forth very much fruit upon one branch" and "groweth in the wilde woods" and "of an harsh and unpleasant taste" are of course the Prunus padus of Britain and most of Europe -not a true cherry but the racemose Bird Cherry, or Choke Cherry. "The common blacke Cherry-tree growes up in some places to great stature: there is no difference between it and our common Cherry-tree, saving that the fruit hereof is very little in respect of other Cherries, and of a blacke colour."This must be some wild Gean or Mazzard.

"The dwarfe Cherry-tree groweth very seldome to the height of three cubits: the trunke or body small, covered with a darke coloured blacke: whereupon do grow very limber and pliant twiggie branches: the leaves are very small, not much unlike to those of the Privite bush; the floures are small and white: after which come Cherries of a deepe red colour when they be ripe, of taste somewhat sharpe, but not greatly unpleasant: the branches laid downe in the earth, quickely take root, whereby it is greatly increased."
Here we have Prunus fruticosa very well described.

"My selfe with divers others have sundry other sorts in our gardens, one called the Hart Cherry, the greater and the lesser; one of the great bignesse, and most pleasant in taste, which we call Luke Wardes Cherry, because he was the first that brought the same out of Italy; another we have called the Naples Cherry, because it was first brought into these parts from Naples: the fruit is very great, sharpe pointed, somewhat like a man's heart in shape, of a pleasant taste, and of a deepe blackish colour when it is ripe, as it were of the colour of dried bloud."

Gerarde's Hart is probably one of the Heart cherries, while "Luke Wardes Cherry "is one of the oldest named Sweet Cherries known in England, having been mentioned by Parlkinson and other of the herbalists as well as in this list. "We have another that bringeth forth Cherries also very great, bigger than any Planders Cherrie, of the colour of jet, or burnished horne, and of a most pleasant taste, as witnesseth Mr. Bull, the Queenes Majesties Clockmaker, who did taste of the fruit (the tree bearing onely one cherry, which he did eat; but my selfe -never tasted of it) at the impression hereof. We have also another, called the Agriot Cherry, of a reasonable good taste. Another we have with fruit of a dun colour, tending to a watchet. We have one of the Dwarfe Cherries, that bringeth forth fruit as great as most of our Flanders Cherries, whereas the common sort hath very small Cherries, and those of an harsh taste. These and many sorts more we have in our London gardens, whereof to write particularly would greatly enlarge our volume, and to small purpose: therefore, what hath beene said shall suffice. I must here (as I have formerly done, in Peares, Apples, and other such fruites) refer you to my two friends, Mr. John Parkinson, and Mr. John Millen, the one to furnish you with the history, and the other with the things themselves, if you desire them."

One can only roughly surmise as to what the cherries mentioned in this paragraph are with the exception of the Agriot which is, if the synonymy of several European pomologists be correct, the Griotte Commune, a sort supposed to have been brought from Syria by the crusaders and to have been recorded under the last name in France as early as 1485.

The end of the Seventeenth Century saw a great revival of agriculture in all of its branches on the continent; in England the revival began with the fall of the commonwealth. From this time the progress of cherry culture has been so rapid and so great that it would be an endless task to give even a cursory view of it - a task unnecessary, too, for succeeding the herbalists a great number of botanies, pomologies and works on agriculture were published to many of which reference is still easy. Moreover, the histories of varieties in this text carry us back quite to the beginning of the Eighteenth Century.

There now remains for the history of the cherry but to sketch its introduction and culture in North America, an undertaking that can be done briefly and to the point, for the data are abundant, recent and reliable. Here, too, accounts of the origin of varieties and the development of the cherry may be looked for in the chapters which comprise the main part of the book.


The cherry was one of the first fruits planted in the fields cleared and enriched by our hardy American ancestry. From Canada to Florida the colonists, though of several nationalities and those from one nation often representing several quite distinct classes, were forced alike to turn at once to the cultivation of the soil as a means of subsistence. And while in all of the colonies the early settlers must have been busily engaged in the cultivation of cereals for the staff of life, in the South in growing cotton and tobacco for money and for purposes of barter, in the North in harvesting forest and fish products for bartering; yet the historians of the colonies notice so often and describe so fully and with such warmth of feeling the vegetables, flowers and fruits in the orchards and gardens of the New World that it is certain that the ground was tilled not only as a means of subsistence but because the tillers loved the luxuries of the land.

What fruit better adapted to the uses of colonists than the cherry? It possesses in a high degree, especially the Sour Cherry, the power of adaptation to new environment and thrives under a greater variety of conditions than any other of our fruits unless it be the apple, which it at least equals in this respect. The cherry is easily propagated; it comes in bearing early and bears reliably; of an fruits it requires least care gives the greatest returns under neglect; and the product is delectable and adapted to many purposes. We shall expect, then, in examining the early records of fruit-growing in America to find the cherry one of the first planted and one of the most widely disseminated of fruits.


While written records are lacking, the plantations of old trees and the development of cherry culture indicate that the French early planted cherries in Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island and in the early settlements on the St. Lawrence River. The cherry is a favorite fruit of the French and the venerable trees that survived on the sites of their settlements when the English came into possession of Canada are proof sufficient that the emigrees from Provence or Normandy, fruit districts of France from which many French settlers came, brought with them seeds of the cherry with those of other fruits. Peter Kalm in his Travels into North America in 1771, records the very general culture of all the hardy fruits in Canada and leaves the impression that such had been the case from the first settlements.


The cherry came to New England with the first settlers. This we are told in all the records of early New England in which the conditions of the country are described and of it we have confirmatory proof in many enormous cherry trees, Sweet and Sour, both about ancient habitations and as escapes from cultivation in woods, fields and fence rows, all pointing to the early cultivation of this fruit. The early records are very specific. Thus, to quote a few out of an embarrassment of references: Francis Higginson writing in 1629, after naming the several other fruits then under cultivation in Massachusetts, notes that the Red Kentish is the only cherry cultivated.13 In the same year, the 16th of March, 1629, a memorandum of the Massachusetts Company shows that "Stones of all sorts of fruites, as peaches, plums, filberts, cherries, pear, apple, quince kernells "were to be sent to New England.14

These seeds, provided by the home company with forethought of the need of orchards in the colony, evidently produced fruit trees sufficient to supply both hunger and thirst; for John Josselyn, who made voyages to New England in 1638, 1639 and 1663, writing of "New England's Rarities Discovered,"says:l5 "Our fruit Trees prosper abundantly, Apple-trees, Pear-trees, Quince-trees, Cherry-trees, Plum-trees, Barberry- trees. I have observed with admiration, that the Kernels sown or the Succors planted produce as fair and good fruit, without grafting, as the tree from whence they were taken: the Countrey is replenished with fair and large Orchards. It was affirmed by one Mr. Woolcut (a magistrate in Connecticut Colony) at the Captains imesse (of which I was) aboard the Ship I came home in, that he made Five hundred Hogsheads of Syder out of his own Orchard in one year. Syder is very plentiful in the Countrey, ordinarily sold for ten shillings a Hogshead.

"The Quinces, Cherries, Damsons, set the Dames a work, Marmalad and preserved Damsons are to be met with in every house. It was not long before I left the Countrey that I made Cherry wine, and so may others, for there are good store of them both red and black. Their fruit trees are subject to two diseases, the Meazels, which is when they are burned and scorched with the Sun, and lowsiness, when the woodpeckers jab holes in their bark: the way to cure them when they are lowsie is to bore a hole in the main root with an Augur, and pour in a quantity of Brandie or Rhum, and then stop it up with a pin made of the same Tree."

As early as 1641, a nursery had been started in Massachusetts and was selling among other trees those of the cherry. Troublesome pests had made their appearance, too, as may be seen from the following letter, probably from the first American nurseryman. The letter is written by George Fenwith of Saybrook, Connecticut, under date of May 6, 1641, to Governor John Winthrop, Jr.

"I have received the trees yow sent me, for which I hartily thanke yow. If I had any thing heare that could pleasure yow, yow should freely comrnand it. I am prettie well storred with cherrye & peach trees, & did hope I had had a good nurserie of aples, of the aples yow sent me last yeare, but the wormes have in a manner distroyed them all as they came up. I pray informe me if yow know any way to prevent the like mischiefe for the future."

These early plantations of cherries in New England were undoubtedly grown from seed; for buds, cions and trees could not have been imported uriless the latter were brought over potted out as was not commonly done until a century and a half later -at least, the records make mention of seeds and not of trees as was the case just before and after the Revolutionary War. A statement left by one of the Chief justices of Massachusetts, Paul Dudley, living at Roxbury, at as late a date as 1726, indicates that varieties were few. In a paper in the Philosophical Transactions17 on agricultural conditions in Massachusetts, among many other interesting things, justice Dudley says:

"Our apples are without doubt as good as those of England, and much fairer to look to, and so are the pears, but we have not got all the sorts. Our peaches do rather excel those of England, and then we have not the trouble or expence of walls for them; for our peach trees are all standards, and I have had in my own garden seven or eight hundred fine peaches of the Rare-ripes, growing at a time on one tree. Our people, of late years, have run so much upon orchards, that in a village near Boston, consisting of about forty families, they made near three thousand barrels of cyder. This was in the year 1721. And in another town of two hundred families, in the same year I am credibly informed they made near ten thousand barrels. Our peach trees are large and fruitful, and bear commonly in three years from the stone. Our common cherries are not so good as the Kentish cherries of England, and we have no Dukes or Heart cherries, unless in two or three gardens."

Though settled at about the same time and having a more congenial climate, New York made progress in fruit-growing more slowly than Massachusetts. The early Dutch settlers in New York were transient traders and not home makers. Actual settlement with homes in view did not begin until after the historical bargain in which thrifty Peter Minuit had acquired Manhattan Island for $24.00 and the country became New Amsterdam. But troublesome times followed under the rule of Minuit, Wouter Van Twiller and Kieft, quarrels and actual war, or the fear of it, with colonists to the north and south as well as with the savages, preventing the planting of orchards and farms until in 1647 when the reins of government were taken in hand by Peter Stuyvesant.

Governor Stuyvesant was a farmer as well as a soldier and there is something in history and much in tradition of the Bowery Farm, which flourished on the site of the present Bowery in New York. This farm was planted and tended by "Peter, the Headstrong "when he was not disputing with his burgomasters, watching the Yankees and fighting Swedes and Indians, The orchards and gardens, according to all accounts, were remarkably fine and were kept in a high state of cultivation. Stuyvesant founded the farm during the stormy times of his governorship but did not live on it until the English took possession of New Amsterdam in 1664 when he retired to the land and devoted the eighteen remaining years of his life to agriculture. From the neighboring colonies and from abroad he brought many fruits, flowers, farm and truck crops. Fruits came to him also from Holland and were disseminated from his orchard up the Hudson.

The cherry was one of the fruits much grown by the Dutch. It would be wearisome and would serve little purpose even to attempt a cursory review of the literature of colonial days in New York showing the spread and the extent of fruit culture by the Dutch. Travel up the Hudson and its branches was easy and within a century after the settlement of New York by the Dutch, cherries were not only cultivated by the whites, according to the records of travelers, naturalists and missionaries, but were rudely tilled by the Indians. For a long time after its introduction in New York, the cherry, in common with other fruits, was grown as a species - varieties and budded or grafted trees were probably not known. Fruit-growing as an industry began in New York and in America, with the establishment of a nursery at Flushing, Long Island, in 1730, by Robert Prince, founder of the nursery which afterwards became the famous Linnaean Botanic Garden. At what date this nursery began to offer named cherries for sale cannot be said but advertisements appearing in 1767, 1774 and 1794 show that budded or grafted named cherries were being offered for sale by the Princes. In 1804, William Prince, third proprietor of the famous Flushing nursery, prepared a list of the named cherries then under cultivation in America for Willich's Domestic Encyclopaedia, an English work which was being edited and made "applicable to the present situation of the United States by Dr. James Mease. The following is Prince's list:

"May Duke, ripe in May and June: long stem, round and red, an excellent cherry, and bears well.
Black Heart, ripe in June: a fine cherry.
White Heart (or Sugar Cherry) ripe in June: white and red.
Bleeding Heart, ripe in June; a very large cherry of a long form and dark colour; it has a pleasant taste.
"Ox Heart, ripe in June: a large, firm, fine cherry.
"Spanish Heart, ripe in June.
"Carnation, ripe in July, it takes its name from its colour, being red and white, a large round cherry, but not very sweet.
"Amber, ripe in July.
"Red Heart, do.
"Late Duke, do.
"Cluster, planted more for ornament, or curiosity than any other purpose.
"Double Blossoms, ripe in July.
"Honey Cherry, do. small sweet cherry.
"Kentish cherry, ripe in July.
"Mazarine, do.
"Morello, do. and August; a red, acid cherry, the best for preserving, and for making cherry-brandy.
"Early Richmond Cherry. This fruit originated near Richmond in Virginia, and is the earliest cherry in America, and valuable on that account; it is the size of a May Duke, and resembles it in form.
"Red Bigereau, a very fine cherry, ripe in July, of a heart shape.
"White Bigereau, ripe in July and August: remarkably firm, heart shaped.
"Large Double Flowering Cherry. This tree produces no fruit but makes a handsome appearance in the spring, when it is covered with clusters of double flowers as large as the cinnamon rose; it differs from the common double flowering cherry which never forms a large tree, and has small pointed leaves.
"The three last were imported from Bordeaux in 1798.
"Small Morello Cherry, called also Salem Cherry, because it came originally from Salem County, N. J., is cultivated by Mr. Cooper of that state, who values it highly. The fruit has a lively acid taste. The tree produces abundantly, and is the least subject to worms of any cherry trees.
"Mr. C. says that the Bleeding Heart suits a sandy soil, but that the May-duke will not flourish in it."


It would be interesting but hardly of sufficient profit to trace further the history of cultivated cherries in the states of the Atlantic seaboard. References to the cherry abound in the colonial records of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware but they bring out no facts differing materially from those abstracted from the records of the northern colonies. The Quakers and the Swedes in the states watered by the Delaware and the English in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, all early grew cherries as one of the easiest fruits to propagate and cultivate.

Space can be spared for but two brief quotations to show the condition of cherry culture in the South in Colonial days. The first is from Bruce's Economic History of Virginia.

"In the closing years of the seventeetith century, there were few plantations in Virginia which did not possess orchards of apple and peach trees, pear, plum, apricot and quince.20 The number of trees was often very large. The orchard of Robert Hide of York21 contained three hundred peach and three hundred apple trees. There were twenty-five hundred apple trees in the orchard of Colonel Fitzhugh. Each species of fruit was represented by many varieties; thus, of the apple, there were mains, pippins, russentens, costards, marigolds, kings, magitens and bachelors; of the pear, bergamy and warden. The quince was greater in size, but less acidulated than the English quince; on the other hand, the apricot and plum were inferior in quality to the English, not ripening in the same perfection. Cherries grew in notable abundance. So great was the productive capacity of the peach that some of the landowners planted orchards of the tree for the mere purpose of using the fruit to fatten their hogs; on some plantations, as many as forty bushels are said to have been knocked down to the swine in the course of a single season.  The second quotation is from Lawson's History of Carolina.

"We have the common, red and black cherry, which bear well. never saw any grafted in this country, the common excepted, which was grafted on an Indian plum stock, and bore well. This is a good way, because our common cherry trees are very apt to put scions all around the tree for a great distance, which must needs be prejudicial to the tree and fruit. Not only our cherries are apt to do so, but our apples and most other fruit trees, which may chiefly be imputed to the negligence and unskillfulness of the gardener. Our cherries are ripe a month sooner than in Virginia."


At a surprisingly early date the cherry, with the apple, peach, pear and plum, was being grown far inland in the New World. Southeastern Michigan was settled in 1701 at Detroit and within a half-century settlements had been made at Vincennes, Indiana, Kaskaskia and Cahokia, Illinois; and at Saint Louis and several other points in Missouri. The orchards and gardens of the early French settlers in these states live in the traditions of all the settlements; but much more substantial evidence was to be found a century ago, and in the case of the apple and pear may still be found, in the venerable trees of all the tree-fruit in and about these old French posts. "The homes of these pioneers,"so good an authority as Parkman tells us, "were generally placed in gardens surrounded by fruit trees of apples, pears, cherries and peaches." Were proof lacking of these early plantations, it might be assumed that people so fond of horticulture as the French would not long be unmindful of the value to themselves and their posterity of plantations of fruit trees.


The history of the cherry in America is not complete without some mention of its introduction, culture and the development of new varieties on the Pacific coast. Indeed, it is not too much to say that at no time nor at any place in its whole history has the cherry made greater advancement than during the last half-century in Oregon, California and Washington - naming the states in order of their contribution to cherry culture.

At about the time the colonies were beginning their struggle with the mother country for independence, Franciscan monks were establishing missions in California. To these they brought seeds of fruits, grains, flowers and vegetables, as several historians of the missions tell us, and as the trees found by Americans a few decades later make certain as regards fruits. It is probable that by the close of the Revolutionary war all subtropical and temperate fruits of Europe were to be found cultivated in the missions of California. Among these, in an enumeration of the products of the missions, the cherry is listed by E.S. Capson. From its introduction at approximately the close of the Eighteenth Century, the cherry continued to be cultivated, at times more or less sparsely to be sure, until, by conquest in the war with Mexico, California passed into the possession of the United States. A new era in horticulture began in California soon after the influx of gold-seekers in 1849, some of whom, noting the opportunities of fruit-growing, at once began the importation of seeds and plants.

Modem fruit-growing on the Pacific Coast, however, began in Oregon. The California Argonauts of '49 were much too busily engaged in digging gold to think of getting it indirectly by tilling the soil, whereas the men who were then crossing the plains from Missouri or sailing around the Horn from New England to Oregon were home-makers and true tillers of the soil. These early Oregonians were the forerunners in the zeal and enterprise which have made horticulture on this coast the marvel of modern agriculture. But one of the several early horticulturists of Oregon can be mentioned here, he deserving special mention by virtue of his work with cherries.

Until 1847 the few cultivated fruits to be found in Oregon were seedlings mostly grown by employees of the Hudson Bay Fur Company. In that year there was a notable importation of cultivated fruits across the plains - a venture which quickly proved pregnant with results in fruit harvests which have not ceased and give promise long to continue. Henderson Lewelling crossed the plains from Henry County, Iowa, and brought with him a choice selection of grafted fruits. These he transported in boxes of soil which he hauled in a wagon drawn by oxen. Arriving in Oregon late in the fall of 1847 he found that he had 300 trees alive which he planted at what is now Milwaukee, a few miles south of Portland on the east side of the Willamette River. Later, seeds were brought for stocks, though for the cherry the wild species, Prunus emarginata and Prunus virginiana, were used and very successfully, until Mazzard and Mahaleb seeds could be obtained. In this traveling nursery, Lewelling brought to Oregon cherries of the Bigarreau, the English Morello and probably of several other types. The label of one of the cherries was lost and this unknown was renamed Royal Ann. Unfortunately, it was one of the best known of all cherries that for the time being lost its identity the Napoleon, which probably has been cultivated for three centuries and since 1820 has borne the name of the great General. With dogged perseverance the West Coast fruit-growers continue the name "Royal Ann "to the great confusion of systematic pomology.

But of chief import to cherry culture were the subsequent operations in the Lewelling nursery at Milwaukee. Lacking proper stocks, Seth Lewelling, who had succeeded Henderson in the nursery business, grew a great many cherries from seeds. From these he afterward selected and disseminated varieties that have made Oregon famous not only for what are probably the finest sweet cherries in the world but for a long list of new and desirable varieties - as Republican, Lincoln, Willamette Seedling and Bing. We call to mind no greater success in bringing into being new fruits from a few lots of seedlings than in the case of Lewelling and his cherries. Lewelling's work stimulated others to breed cherries and among many seedlings that have since been named in the Northwest the Lambert and Oregon are well worthy of mention.

The facts of time and place in the beginning of cherry culture which we have tried to set forth in this chapter have, we think, some historical and narrative interest. Yet, the main value of the facts are not in history and story. Rather, at least so we hope they will be interpreted, these brief records show what the crude material was out of which our present cultivated cherry flora has been developed; what the steps were in the domestication and development of the cherry; what economic purposes they have served; and who the peoples are and what the methods were in bringing the cherry to its present state of development. In a word, the chapter will not have served the purpose for which it is mainly intended if it does not furnish facts and inspirations toward the further evolution of the cherry.

     Cherry growing is a specialist's business in which, under the best of conditions, there are more ups and downs than with other fruits.  Because of the great profits that have come to a few in the years just past many growers have been drawn into the business in a small way or have planted an acreage beyond their means to manage.  The inevitable depression that follows over-planting is, at this writing, at hand and spells ruin to some and disgust and discouragement in the industry to others.  Perhaps no fruit can better be left to men of reserve capital than the cherry, and even with men of substance cherry-growing should largely be incidental to the culture of other fruits - an industry to fit in to keep land, labor and machinery employed.  Cherry trees begin to bear in the climate of New York when set from three to five years.  The varieties of Prunus cerasus first produce profitable crops but, at from six to eight years from setting, both Sweet and Sour sorts are in full swing as money-making crops.  The limits of profitable age are not set by the life of the tree but, rather, by its size.  Thus, cherry trees of either of the species commonly cultivated are not infrequently centenarians but the profitable age of an orchard is not often more than from thirty to forty years.  After this time the trees become large and the expense of caring for them and of picking the fruit becomes so great as to prevent profits.  Moreover, disease, injuries and inevitable accidents will have thinned the ranks of trees until the orchard is below profit-making.
     Cherry-picking begins in New York about the first of July, following the rush in harvesting strawberries, and lasts, if the orchard contains both Sweet and Sour varieties, from four to six weeks.  Workers may in this way fill in a gap between small-fruits and other tree-fruits and the crop becomes one in which the grower may often take small profits to keep his help employed; though, in the long run, if the more or less frequent depressions can be weathered, the cherry may prove as profitable as other fruits.
     The problem of labor is a most vexatious one under present conditions, it being impossible to obtain casual men laborers for cherry-picking and women and children are unsatisfactory, since the fruit must be carefully picked or both cherries and trees suffer.  The problem is solved, unsatisfactorily in most cases, in various ways by different growers.  Most of the crop is now picked by children in the teens under the eyes of men or women supervisors.  In picking for the market the stem is left on and only the stem is touched by the fingers.  Cherries for canning factories are less laboriously picked.  The picking package is usually an eight-pound basket.  The rate paid is one cent per pound.  Pickers earn $1.50 to $2.00 per day in good seasons.  Close watch is kept on pickers to prevent the breaking off of fruit-spurs, thereby destroying the succeeding year's crop, varieties fruiting in clusters suffering especially from carelessness in this respect.  Cherries are picked a few days before full ripeness.
     Cherries are sent to canneries in various packages but chiefly in half-bushel baskets or paper-lined bushel crates, the container being often supplied by the cannery.  The six- and eight-pound baskets are the favored receptacles for Sour Cherries in city markets but the Sweet sorts are rather oftener sent in four-pound baskets and still more frequently in quart boxes.  In the larger packages not much effort is made to make the fruit attractive but in the smaller ones, stemless and bruised cherries are thrown out and the package filled, stem down, with the best fruits.  In fancy grades all of the fruit in the box is layered.  The demands of the market, of course, determine the package and the manner of packing.  Cherries are seldom stored longer than a few days at most in common storage and a week or two weeks in cold storage.
 There is a marked difference in the shipping and keeping qualities of varieties of cherries, the sorts that keep longest and ship best, quite at the expense of quality, having the call of the markets.  Undoubtedly this must remain so, though it is to be desired that local markets, at least, be supplied with the best, irrespective of handling qualities.  A further factor that prevents the placing of choicely good cherries in distant markets at all times is brown-rot, to be discussed later, which more often attacks the juicy and usually the best-flavored varieties, oftentimes ruining the pack on the way to market -one of the most discouraging events incidental to cherry-growing,
     Marketing machinery for cherries is at present very costly, inadequate and frequently sadly out of gear.  The fruit passes first from the grower to a local buyer who ships to a center of consumption, transportation companies taking heavy toll on the way.  jobbers or commission companies, who in some cases receive the fruit direct from the grower, then distribute the crop to retailers in the consuming centers.  Lastly, the retailer parcels out the quantities and the qualities demanded by the housewife.  The whole business of selling the crop is speculative and the grower is fortunate to receive half of what the consumer pays and not infrequently has all of his pains for nothing or may even be forced to dip into his pocket for transportation.  The perishableness of the product and the present defects of distribution go far to make the crop the hazardous one it is but all look forward to better times coming under an improved system of marketing.
     Up to the present, it must be said, but little effort has been made in New York to ship far and to develop a trade in cherries other than at the canneries.  The canners have until the last year or two taken the cream of the crop but with recent greatly increased plantings are now over-supplied.  The average grower, possessing a mixture of mental inertia and business caution, has not sought other sources for the surplus fruit.  Bolder and more energetic spirits are now developing new markets and opening up those to which other tree-fruits more generally go so that the present overproduction may prove a blessing in disguise.  The greatly increased demand, for Sour Cherries in particular, brought about by the development of markets in 1913-14, are most hopeful signs for the future of the cherry industry.

De Candolle, Origin of Cultivated Plants 207. 1885.
Theophrastus, Book III, Chap. 13.
4 De Candolle, Alphonse Origin of Cultivated Plants 210. 2885.
Bostock and Riley Nat. History of Pliny 3:322. 1855.
6 A very good translation of Varro on farming is one by Lloyd Starr-Best, published by G. Bell & Sons, London. l912.
Athenaeus Dipnosophistae Book 11, Chap. XXXIV-V.
Tertullian Apologeticum Chap. X1.
Amanianus History of the Roman Emperors Book 22, Chap. XV1.
10 St. Jerorne Epistulae Book 1, Letter XXXV.
11 Quoted from Mueller,HugoM. Obstzfruchter 8:3. 1910.
12 Kalm, Peter Travels into North America 1771.
13 Mass. Hist. Soc. Collections 1st Ser. 1:118.
14 Mass. Records 1: 24.
15 Mass. Hist. Collections.3d Ser. 23:337.
16 Mass. Hist. Collections 4th Ser. VI: 499.
17 Abridgment 6:pt. 11:341, in Hist. Mass. Hort. SOC. 14-15. 1829-1878.
18 Willich Domestic Encyclopaedia 105. 1804.
19Bruce Economic History of Virginia 1:468. 1895.
20Glover Philo. Trans. Royal Soc. 1676-1678, vols- XI-XII, p. 628.
21Records of York County vol. 1694-1697, p. 71, Va. State Library.
22Letters of William Fitzhugh April 22, 1686,
24 Beverley Histoy of Virginia p. 260.                                                                          TOP                    HOME
26Lawson History of Carolina 183. 1714. (Reprint of 1860.)
27History of California 111. 1854.