DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Leaves simple, alternate, oblong-lanceolate, 2 to 6 inches long with petioles ½ to ¾ inch long; margins finely toothed, the tips of the teeth curving inward; 1 or 2 glands normally present on the upper portion of the petiole near the base of the blade. Winter twigs slender, red-brown, glabrous; leaf scars small, half-round, with 3 bundle scars. Buds ovoid, 1/8 to ¼ inch long (occasionally larger), with about 6 glabrous, dark red-brown scales; the terminal bud equal to or only slightly larger than the laterals. Flowers perfect, regular, in showy racemes, appearing shortly after the leaves in mid to late spring; petals 5, white, broadly obovate. Fruit a drupe about 1/3 inch in diameter, purple-black when ripe, with a persistent calyx. Bark smooth with prominent lenticels, eventually separating into thin, light gray to black scales with upturned edges.
SIMILAR TREES: Chokecherry and wild plum are much smaller trees; their leaves have sharp-pointed, outward-directed teeth and are broader relative to their length. In winter, bud scales of chokecherry are brown with tan margins; other trees with similar twigs have false terminal buds.
IOWA DISTRIBUTION: Native as far west as the natural lakes area in northwestern Iowa and the Missouri River in southwestern Iowa.
Forest and Shade Trees of Iowa by Peter J. van der Linden and Donald R. Farrar