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Prunus caroliniana

Carolina Laurel Cherry
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees


Discussed here are ornamental members of the genus Prunus. Fruit trees belonging to this genus—collectively known as stone fruits—are described under their common names. See Almond; Apricot; Cherry; Peach and Nectarine; Plum (includes Prune); and Plum Hybrids.

Ornamental species and forms can be divided into two categories: evergreen and deciduous. Evergreen types are used chiefly as hedges, screens, shade trees, and street trees. Deciduous flowering trees and shrubs, closely related to the fruit trees mentioned above, are valued for their winter or spring floral display as well as for attractive shape and for foliage form, texture, and sometimes even fall color. Many of these deciduous kinds offer a bonus of edible fruit.

Prunus caroliniana

Native from North Carolina to Texas, this upright evergreen can be trained as a shrub that branches densely from the base; it can also serve as a clipped edge or tall screen to 20 ft. high; and it can be sheared into formal shapes. Trained as a tree, it typically grows to 20–30 ft. tall and 15–25 ft. wide but can reach 40 ft. tall with a 30–40 ft. spread; it also looks attractive grown with multiple trunks.

This plant is thickly clothed in 2–4-in.-long, smooth-edged, glossy green leaves. Small, fragrant creamy white flowers bloom in 1-in. spikes from late winter to midspring; blossoms are followed by black fruit to 1/2–in. wide that is inconspicuous among the leaves, but can be messy on the patio.

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