Black Cherry

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Black cherry (Prunus serotina)

Common Name(s): Black cherry, American cherry

Scientific Name: Prunus serotina

Distribution: Eastern North America

Tree Size: 50-100 ft (15-30 m) tall,

                      3-5 ft (.3-.6 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 35.0 lbs/ft3 (560 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 0.47, 0.56

Janka Hardness: 950 lbf (4,230 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 12,300 lbf/in2 (84.8 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,490,000 lbf/in2 (10.3 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 7,110 lbf/in2 (49 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.7%, Tangential: 7.1%,

                             Volumetric: 11.5%, T/R Ratio: 1.9

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a light pinkish brown when freshly cut, darkening to a medium reddish brown with time and upon exposure to light. Wide sapwood is a pale yellowish color. It is not uncommon for boards to contain at least some sapwood portions along the outer edges.

Grain/Texture: The grain is usually straight—with the exception of figured pieces with curly grain patterns. Has a fine, even texture with moderate natural luster.

Rot Resistance: Heartwood is rated as being very durable and resistant to decay, though not typically used in exterior applications.

Workability: Black cherry is known as being one of the best all-around woods for workability. It is stable, straight-grained, and machines well. The only difficulties typically arise if the wood is being stained, as it can sometimes give blotchy results—using a sanding sealer prior to staining, or using a gel-based stain is recommended. Sapwood is common, and may contribute to a high wastage factor.

Odor: Has a mild, distinctive scent when being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Breathing black cherry’s sawdust has been associated with respiratory effects such as wheezing. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Lumber and veneer are in adequate supply. Along with black walnut (Juglans nigra), black cherry is considered a premier American cabinet hardwood, and prices are in the mid to upper range for a domestic hardwood.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

Common Uses: Cabinetry, fine furniture, flooring, interior millwork, veneer, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

Comments: Black cherry develops a rich reddish-brown patina as it ages that’s frequently imitated with wood stains on other hardwoods such as yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). This aging process can be accelerated by exposing the wood (in a judicious manner) to direct sunlight.

Not to be confused with sweet cherry (Prunus avium), a tree native to Europe and Asia that’s the primary source of edible cherries. While the fruit of black cherry is technically edible, the tree is utilized much more for its lumber, while P. avium provides the iconic and ubiquitous fruit.

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood.

A special thanks to Adam Cottrill for providing the turned photo of this wood species, and Salem Barker for providing the sculpture photo of this wood species.

Black cherry turned (Adam Cottrill)
Black cherry sculpture (Salem Barker)
Curly black cherry (psaltery)

Identification: See the article on Hardwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

Black cherry (endgrain 10x)
Black cherry (endgrain 1x)

Porosity: semi-ring-porous to diffuse-porous

Arrangement: earlywood can form a single continuous row of pores

Vessels: medium to small in earlywood, sometimes grading down to slightly smaller diameter in latewood, numerous (also sometimes grading down to moderately numerous in latewood)

Parenchyma: not visible

Rays: medium; normal spacing

Lookalikes/Substitutes: The lighter sapwood can easily be confused with other diffuse porous hardwoods like birch or maple. Yellow poplar is also used frequently as a substitute for cherry, particularly when stained to color match cherry’s heartwood. Black cherry can be separated from most other lookalike hardwoods because of its tendency towards being semi-ring-porous. It’s growth ring boundaries will generally be defined by a slight concentration of pores along the growth ring, while diffuse-porous woods will typically have their growth rings delineated by a whitish line of marginal parenchyma. 

Notes: Different Prunus species, as well as many related fruitwood species in the Rosaceae family, can’t be reliably separated on the basis of wood anatomy.

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Kris K.

Hi! First, GREAT website! Second, I have 2 questions about Black cherry: [1] Why does the description note that sapwood is “wastage”…? Is it only because of the color, or is it too inferior to bother with at all, and if the latter, what makes it so bad…? I personally have use for pale colors, which is why I’m asking. [2] I don’t see info about bending Black cherry. Would it be difficult or catastrophic to bend a piece that’s about 1/8-inch in thickness and maybe 2-inches wide…? If that’s possible, would it also be “bendable” up to a 1/4-inch… Read more »

Kris K.

Thank You, Eric, for clarifying that about the sapwood!
(I’ll have to look into whether some sort of “repurpose” facility for wood pieces like there is for furniture and building supplies.)
I was thinking of using the “hot water method”, 4 pieces to bend with the total being a circle with outer radius of 6″, but I admit I hadn’t thought about all of the involved factors – ooops! It’s probably always best in any event to take a couple of thin slices from any piece and test them to see whether the actual individual piece would be suitable.


Can Black cherry be used to do the ceiling of a back porch?


This is a piece of cherry – – either native black cherry (Prunus serotina) or common chokecherry (P. virginiana) – – cut in southern Maryland years ago. When you look at one side of the wood, somewhat askance / at an angle, these wonderful figures show up. It’s not the usual grain – – what causes these patterns? Is this unique to cherry? Any info will be appreciated – – thanks!


Thanks so much! I’ve played a little with sycamore and have noticed it there, too, as you say. Thanks again!


Anyone have any experience in using cherry for exterior millwork like windows and doors? Sapele prices are sky rocketing and cherry is cheap right now. Description says it is very rot resistant but says not commonly used in exterior applications. Why?

Ray Klein

My son has three mature black cherry trees, dying and to be removed. He has the chance of keeping the logs, straight for 12-15 feet, with diameters of 12-18″. Problem is they have Gummosis. Are the logs likely to be usable as lumber? Firewood, and possibly turning?


I used a plank of cherry to make a canoe paddle some 28 years ago. It is the perfect wood for this use as it has a warm tactility and a little flex in the shaft that allows me to feel the water as I paddle. I have only ever finished it with tung oil, which I redo annually before the paddling season starts (I live in Canada). I have used it every year for all but the more turbulent whitewater trips. No other paddle I have tried has the same sensitivity. The paddle is still in wonderful condition, except… Read more »


thank you for this web site— a wonderful resource! what mechanical property of a wood describes its resistance to splitting along the grain? the specific problem I’m trying to solve relates to dining room chairs with cherry legs. To protect our wooden floors, they need pads. But the adhesive sort work poorly — they slip off. so I’m trying to figure out whether I can safely screw a padded foot to the endgrain at the bottom of the leg. Challenge is that the leg tapers to a relatively narrow profile — roughy 1-1/4” by 1/2”. Seems like a recipe for… Read more »


Thanks, Eric. Probably a good occasion for mocking up a test leg from scrap and seeing how much abuse it can take.

Chris Knutson

Maybe pre-drill for something like this…

That would be less traumatic to the end grain than a screw I think.


Is 5 yr dried cherry slabs good for tables and bar tops at 2 1/2″ thick? I’m allergic to tree nuts etcetera which wood (trees) do not bear nuts? Thanks in advance


Cherries are fruit trees, not nut trees, as are Apple, Peach, and Apricot. Nut trees include Almond, Oak, Hickory, Pecan, and Walnut. A quick google or wikipedia search on the tree in question will tell you whether they bear fruit, nuts, or something else. But while I’m no expert on allergies, I find it hard to believe that working wood from a certain tree would aggravate an allergy to its fruit. Especially if you use dust collection and/or dust masks when necessary.


I have black cherry sprouts all over my property, (maybe 100+) that are 3 to 5 feet high, along with several mature trees. I transplanted a couple dozen to see if they would thrive and seem to be doing well. I am considering starting a tree farm on another 170 x 170 lot that have. Any thoughts on viability or spacing.

John wingfield

I have about 30 or so wild cherry trees on my property. Is the wood safe to use for firewood or cooking?

Ty P.

I regularly smoke meat with the secondary wood from wild cherry trees, it is one of the best for this. However, the trunk of the trees I cut are used for lumber, quite valuable lumber. It will burn just fine but it makes better furniture in my opinion.

Jacob Strauss

I know from experiences lichtenberg burning black cherry that if you brush on a solution of around a teaspoon of baking soda per cup of water, the solution will make the heartwood of most pieces a vibrant orange color. Some slightly figured pieces may develop more discoloration in some areas of the figuring, which can look a bit unattractive. But for the most part, it makes the wood on the surface quite beautiful, and if you don’t like it, you can always sand it away later. Also, the same thing can be done to pretty much any other wood to… Read more »

Mark S

how are the colors holding up?

Chase Renner

I’m located in Florida where spearfishing is very popular. I was considering making a speargun out of black cherry but I am worried about the constant shock and and stress on the wood from firing and reloading. Will this wood be able to withstand this type of stress for a long period of time?

John Cloer

For rot resistance it would do well, but it is relatively soft (950) so it may not do so well with regards to elasticity from draw weight and shock of release.. I have seen mahogany used for spearguns, and some types of mahogany are similar in hardness to cherry, so..Give it a shot! (No pun intended) Since you’re in Florida, osage orange might be a good option, rot resistant and is used to make bows.

John Bland

Osage is a great thought but can not typically be grown or naturalized here in Fla. He coukd of course order it.

Sarah R

Try Osage Orange wood for your speargun. Maclura pomifera is the scientific name, its also called bowwood. Its a coveted wood for native american bow makers. Its has an unparalleled stress strength factor and does not rot. It is amazing light once dried for the density and flexibility.

John Bland

As a boyer we make bows out if Black Cherry wood. No problem with shock, it’s all in the design. Use the heart wood for more strength. The water damage is more of a concern.

Mark B

Black locust might be a good option. It’s plentiful, grows straight, hard, rot and water resistant. Commonly used for fence posts

Michael Stiennon

In direct sunlight, unstained cherry will bleach almost white. On the other hand if it is in a room with synthetic carpet the chemical vapor from the carpet will shortly turn unvarnished cherry a very pleasing dark red “cherry” color. Best look, imho, comes from indirect lighting, no carpets, but takes many years.


Would you recommend using an oil finish like water lox if so how would you prep the before putting on the oil


This site puts Black Cherry in the highest rot resistance category. I’m in the building industry, and have never heard of cherry being used for exterior conditions. We are considering various wood species for vertical cladding on the exterior of a masonry building. Is cherry a good option? I’m skeptical. If it’s highly rot resistant, and less expensive than ipe or mahogany, then why don’t we see it being used for this type of application…..ever?

Paul Fuge

Black cherry sapwood in not rot resistant at all, Most cherry is sawn for grade and nearly all boards contain sapwood often both faces. If lower grade larger logs are sawn to exclude sapwood and further manufacture eliminates sapwood in the product, fencing, cladding, furniture, cherry is an excellent exterior wood. My company has been using it outdoors for 40 years. Live sawing cherry logs is a simple way to emphasize heartwood due to the higher percentage partially rift, rift, and quartered wood produced. The pieces do not have to be clear or without resin pockets to perform well outdoors


White oak would be a good choice cherry would be above pine on my list and way below even red oak but white oak is boat building materials


Is Black Cherry and Cherry the same thing?


Can I get some input into why cherry isn’t used for baseball bats?

Joseph Palas

For a baseball bat, Cherry would be too soft (denting) and does not possess enough shock resistance (against cracking/splitting), compared to a wood like Ash or Hickory.

Kevin Cole

I have 20 acres and about 1/3 of the trees are black cherry-the remainder is maple, oak, black walnut and sassafras. I uses the black cheers for four different things. I find the trees themselves to be rather brittle. a windstorm or heavy snowfall results in limbs becoming detached from the tree. These are about 8-18″‘s in diameter and 20-40’ long. I use the straight segments for lumber-air dry and cut into cant with my chainsaw-3 years drying on racks in my barn. I used the planks for furniture-table, cabinets etc I use the shorter fat segments to make wooden… Read more »


I’ve found that I break out in a rash whenever I work with black cherry. After further research, I discovered that reactions like mine are fairly common when working with black cherry.


Is the modulus of rupture too low for cherry to make a sturdy, reliable cane or walking stick?


Cherry makes a stout stick. Make your stick thicker than 3/4″. My straight-strong stick used for 7 years is 7/8″.

Daniel Cole

I make canes from half inch stock, laminate, and route. Extremely strong.

Charles Beyer

Does Cherry have a distinct smell that would transfer to a food that is stored in a vessel made from it. It is not listed on the toxic chart so I’m thinking it has little to no irritants or allergy causing properties.

Chris Glazier

Any smell associated with it other than sweet are probably meaning in smoked form. It smells and burns and smokes meats and things well. Ive seen it as bowls or cutting boards ect.

Paul David Selby

How do you think black cherry would be to turn for a pool cue as in the butt end not the shaft

joseph palas

I believe it would likely lack heft (weight) if used as a pool cue butt. If the stock is particularly heavy, it could work and work well.

Mohamed Kamel

can i use cherry veneer to make skateboard deck ?

Silas Jura

I wouldn’t recommend it. Cherry is on the lower end of the hardness scale. I would look at hard maple or hickory as it will hold up to the abuse of the skateboards much better. The maple will have a much more consistent color (mostly light colored) where hickory will have light and dark mixed in but is very, very durable (strongest wood in North America). Another thing you need to do is make sure the substrate you are attaching your veneer to is very strong and durable, otherwise your veneer will not hold up. For instance, if you use… Read more »


Veneer go for it, Solid not so much.
Hardness might not be what your looking for for in a skateboard deck. As long as your core has the Tensile Strength you can put whatever you want on the top.

Dan Andreescu

Thinking about building a baby crib out of Black Cherry. I have two hesitations. One is this low risk of the dust causing respiratory discomfort. For an adult that might be mildly annoying but do people think it’s a lot worse for a baby? I wouldn’t coat it with anything, maybe some natural oil?

Another possible concern is this note that dogs and horses have died from eating fresh Cherry wood sap: More info about that:


Those websites listing things poisonous to your pets are getting ridiculous & stupid anymore. It says clearly, “when ingested in toxic amounts” but doesn’t say anything at all about what a toxic amount is. Do a little research and you often find out it is some absurd, truckload type amount that is beyond realistic for anything to eat. In the right amount, water is toxic. Cherry is a very innocuous wood that has been used for cutting boards and kitchen utensils for centuries.

Sam Cruz

Can someone I.D. this wood?

joseph palas

It is Black Cherry.

Winter wood

I have some Canada Red Cherry wood ( a type of ornamental tree) and was wondering if you wanted a sample of it even though it isn’t a common wood and is similar to black cherry. Also, I was wondering if cherry is usually problematic to dry.

Sam Cruz

Can someone I.D. this wood?

Arthur Cooper

Hard to tell. It’s stained so it could be any number of carvable species.


Can someone I.D. this wood? ;)