“The cherry blossom tree is truly a sight to behold, especially when it is in full riotous bloom.”
Homaro Cantu, chef and inventor
Several neighbor ladies sat on the Prairie porch enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon while admiring masses of butterflies on blossoming trees.
A few asked if the butterflies were monarchs, and if you’ve seen pictures of monarchs covering trees in Mexico you could certainly think they might be.
Some asked, “Are those Bradford pear trees?”
The trees are wild black cherry trees and covered in masses of white blooms not unlike the Bradford pear tree. These black cherry trees have grown just beyond the porch for more than three decades. The old trees are gnarly and broken, but every spring they burst out wildly in white blooms. Wild cherry trees are a host plant for the tiger swallowtail, the red-spotted purple (a blackish butterfly) and the cecropia moth — though I have not noticed the moth on our trees.
Occasionally the yellow and black swallowtail and the red-spotted purple do a dance of sorts, winding and twirling while ascending higher and higher into the sky. Surely they are competing for the sweet nectar of the tree blossoms.
The wild cherry tree is known to be drought-tolerant, which is a good thing though these trees do grow near the lake. They are also known to live up to 200 or so years and still produce seed at 100 years or more. Cherry wood can be made in to nice furniture, but as the tree ages, as ours have, the limbs break easily.
The tree will have berries this summer and the birds will enjoy them, as will squirrels and rabbits. I’ve read over-indulging in cherry juice can make a bird a bit tipsy. The juice of the wild black cherry is tart, sometimes bitter, but has been useful for flavorings of soft drinks, ice creams, jams and liqueurs.
In pioneer days, an extract was drawn from the bark of the tree and used as an elixir for coughs. Some modern-day cough syrups still use black cherry flavoring.
The seed of the cherry, if grounded up, releases cyanide and can be poisonous. Even the wilted leaves can produce a poison toxic to livestock so that the trees are often removed from grazing pastures. The seeds of the black cherry can take up to three years to germinate.
If one listens carefully on a calm day, it’s not hard to hear the drone of bees covering the trees’ blossoms, vying for space beside butterflies. I asked Sam if he could hear the buzzing of the bees, but he said he hears buzzing all the time so he couldn’t be sure it was the bees.
While we have no black cherry elixirs or liqueurs, we do enjoy the prolific white blooms in spring along with the “flutter” of butterflies and the drone of bees. Then summer brings fruit enjoyed by the birds and squirrels, and finally we mark the shortening days of fall as the leaves turn vivid yellow, orange and red.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.