DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Small tree or shrub, often colonial. Leaves simple, alternate, oval or obovate, 2 to 4 inches long with petioles ½ to 1 inch long; margins finely toothed, the tips of the teeth sharp and pointing outward; two glands normally present on petiole near the base of the blade. Winter twigs slender, glabrous, gray or red-brown; leaf scars small, half-round, with 3 bundle scars. Buds long-ovoid, 3/16 to ¼ inch long (sometimes larger), terminal and laterals nearly equal in size; scales 6 or more, glabrous, brown with light-colored margins. Flowers similar to black cherry but commonly blooming earlier in spring; petals nearly round. Fruit a drupe ¼ to 1/3 inch in diameter, red or dark purplish red when ripe; calyx deciduous. Bark gray, smooth.
SIMILAR TREES: Black cherry has narrower leaves with incurved teeth. Wild plum has its flowers in small, umbellike clusters, and its fruits are much larger. In winter, black cherry has dark red-brown bud scales; other trees with similar twigs have false terminal buds.
IOWA DISTRIBUTION: Native throughout the state.
Forest and Shade Trees of Iowa by Peter J. van der Linden and Donald R. Farrar